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Designing Atmospheres
JÜRGEN WEIDINGER ( ED.)

Universitätsverlag der tU Berlin


BIblIoGRAphIc INfoRmAtIoN publIshED by thE DEutschE NAtIoNAlbIblIothEk
The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie;
detailed bibliographic data are available on the Internet at http://dnb.dnb.de.

UNIvERsItätsvERlAG DER TU BERlIN, 2018

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publikationen@ub.tu-berlin.de
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This work is protected by copyright.

Typesetting: Juliane Feldhusen, Sebastian Feldhusen, Berlin


Layout: Chair Landscape Architecture, TU Berlin
Cover image: Susanne Isabel Yacoub, Nadia Zeissig, Berlin
Print: Kistmacher GmbH, Berlin

ISBN (print) 978-3-7983-2966-9


ISBN (online) 978-3-7983-2967-6

Published online on the institutional Repository of the TU Berlin:


DOI 10.14279/depositonce-6431
http://dx.doi.org/10.14279/depositonce-6431
coNtENt

INtRoDuctIoN

9 atMOsPHeres
essential FOr designers
Jürgen Weidinger

DEsIGNING AtmosphEREs, pARt 1

19 designing atMOsPHeres in
landsCaPe arCHiteCtUre
Jürgen Weidinger

41 tHe COnCePt and tHe PerCePtiOn


OF atMOsPHeres
Michael Hauskeller

55 MetrOPOlitan lyriC POetry FrOM


a diFFerent PersPeCtive: UrBan
atMOsPHeres in POetry FrOM Kästner
tO HartUng
Burkhard Meyer-Sickendiek

79 FUnCtiOn : eMOtiOn
A.W. Faust
photoGRAphING AtmosphEREs

93 Projects of A.W. Faust and


Stig L. Andersson

DEsIGNING AtmosphEREs, pARt 2

115 atMOsPHere—a tHin FilM OF enClOsUre


Stig L. Andersson

123 draMatUrgy OF atMOsPHeres—tHe


PerCePtiOn OF staged MOOd settings
Sabine Schouten

141 atMOsPHere — tHe liFe OF a PlaCe.


tHe PsyCHOlOgy OF envirOnMent
and design
Rainer Schönhammer

fIElD REsEARch oN AtmosphERE

183 KatHryn gUstaFsOn in an intervieW


WitH JÜrgen Weidinger

199 atMOsPHere as Patina. On reCKOning


WitH atMOsPHeres
Andreas Rauh

213 aUtHOrs
Note oN this editioN
The original, German-language edition of this book was first
published in 2013 following a conference that took place at
the Technische Universität Berlin in 2012. Since then, the
subject of atmosphere as an aesthetic category for land-
scape architecture and architecture has attracted widespread
interest and been discussed in the context of numerous
conferences and publications. This book is a translation of
the texts from 2013.
AtmosphEREs — EssENtIAl
foR DEsIGNERs
Jürgen Weidinger

LaNdscape architecture aNd


quaLitative pheNomeNa
Landscape architecture combines the knowledge and meth-
ods of science with the applied arts. This special mixture
opens up a broad range of topics and questions. One issue
that is of particular interest to our research unit (Fachgebiet)
is spatial quality. What is spatial quality? We define spatial
quality as the design of functional solutions that are embed-
ded in qualitative phenomena. In this sense, the design of
landscape architecture pursues the methodology of link-
ing qualitative phenomena to the fulfilment of functional
requirements.

At technical universities like the TU Berlin, a large number of


disciplines, including ecology, soil science, hydrology, botany,
climatology, hydraulics, building design and sociology, focus
on the functional aspects and fulfilment of quantitative
requirements. The majority of these disciplines investigate
their research topics on the basis of measurements and use
quantities for determining whether the respective require-
ments or functions have been fulfilled. Unlike functional
considerations, qualitative phenomena are not measurable.
Their description and evaluation require a different approach.
One of the most important missions of this research unit is
the study of models and methods that make it possible to
describe and evaluate qualitative phenomena.

In the societal debate on cities and urban open spaces over


the past decade, we have observed an increasing tendency
to cling fearfully to supposedly quantifiable aspects under
the premise of functionality, economic efficiency and acces-
sibility. Policymakers feel compelled to secure investments
in public buildings and landscape architecture on the basis

9
of quantifiable criteria. When these arguments are not ade-
quately convincing, public opinion polls are carried out in
order to obtain an “ostensibly” legitimate assessment. The
emerging demand for quantification has led to a boom of
scientific, sociotechnical, energy-related and eco-technolog-
ical papers with a sectoral orientation. In my opinion, these
concepts have arisen exclusively from the perspective of
one of the sub-disciplines of landscape architecture and
with little consideration for qualitative aspects. Attempts
to objectify design outcomes using quantifiable methods
are nothing new. However, it is important to remember that
all historical efforts to quantify spatial quality have failed.
In the 1970s and 1980s the paradigm of open-space plan-
ning based on social science was used for the creation of
monotonous open spaces, which we are now redesigning
1 See Hasse, Jürgen: Zur Macht wherever possible. It has become apparent that a decreas-
von Atmosphären – im Regieren der ing number of policymakers and government officials have
Stadt wie des eigenen Selbst. URL:
the training required for recognising and evaluating spatial
www.iba- hamburg.de/fileadmin/
Erleben_2013/ Kongresse/Stadt_ qualities. A one-sided quantitative evaluation of designs and
Neu_Bauen/SNB_ Hasse.pdf (as projects loses sight of qualitative phenomena. This leads to
consulted online on 15 August 2013). projects that lack quality. 1

If we observe the definition of spatial quality provided here


and recognise the failure of historical attempts to objectify
the process of design, the current trend of quantifiability
must be criticised and rejected. A thorough investigation
and understanding of qualitative phenomena is impera-
tive for the design of public spaces that have a stimulat-
ing, emotional effect and enable their visitors to experience
contemporary urbanity.

However, in the evaluation of qualitative phenomena, we


are currently observing a striking lack of theoretical orien-
tation in the discourse on urbanism and landscape archi-
tecture resulting from the shift towards quantifiability.
This theoretical deficit not only limits our understanding
of landscape architecture, but also has a negative impact
on landscape planning and landscape aesthetics. We often
base our evaluation of the visual landscape on traditional
aesthetic models instead of developing and applying new
concepts and categories for this purpose.

10
how caN quaLitative pheNomeNa be described?
Natural science has strong reservations about qualitative
phenomena and generally rejects their study. One possible
reason is that, in the context of natural science’s under-
standing of science itself, these phenomena cannot be clearly
described in causal terms and are therefore impossible to
theorise or empirically verify. At the fringes of science, a
few scattered attempts have been made to explain qualita- 2 See Moles, Abraham: Informa-
tive phenomena using scientific approaches. These include tion Theory and Esthetic Perception.
Urbana, Illinois, 1966.
not only the concept of information aesthetics that Abraham
Moles,2 Max Bense 3 and several others explored in the 1960s
on the basis of mathematical information theory, but also a 3 See Kramer, Friedrich: Chaos und
branch of aesthetic theory derived from complexity theory Ordnung. Die komplexe Struktur des
Lebendigen. Stuttgart 1988
in the 1980s, such as Friedrich Kramer’s writings, 4 and the
relationship between aesthetics and the theory of evolution
described by Winfried Menninghaus5 in 2011. However, these 4 See Menninghaus, Winfried: Wozu
theories have not (as of yet) had any significant influence Kunst? Ästhetik nach Darwin. Berlin
2011.
on the discourse of urban design or landscape architecture.

Hence, most hypotheses on qualitative phenomena are 5 See Bense, Max: Einführung in die
developed by the disciplines of the humanities, which are informationstheoretische Ästhetik.
Grundlegung und Anwendung in der
concerned with understanding, whereas natural science has
Texttheorie. Reinbek 1969.
its main focus on explaining. The disciplines of philosophy,
psychology, attitude research and perception theory, along
with literary, art and visual studies, have produced a wide
variety of theories on the subject of quality. The study of quali-
tative phenomena in the design disciplines has developed
along the dichotomy of function (quantity) and form (quality).
The judgement of these two poles changed repeatedly dur-
ing the development of the design disciplines. Furthermore,
normative descriptions, such as form follows function or the
so-called “science-based design” (wissenschaftliches Entwerfen)
at the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm, as well as radically
formalistic concepts such as the anti-design of the Memphis
Group, do not help to build up a systematic description of
qualitative phenomena. In contrast, approaches of system-
atic models focus on the holistic effect of design artefacts
and investigate interactions between the individual parts
of a design and the resulting holistic impact. The process of
this aesthetic more can be described as an emergence. This
is why models of qualitative phenomena refer to theories
of holistic perception, like Gestalt theory, synaesthesia and
semiotics.

11
Which of these theoretical concepts have prevailed, which
have been further developed, and which are shaping the
contemporary discourse? Semiotics, as a metatheory, has
lost influence. Semiotics, an essential feature of postmodern
architecture and landscape architecture, now only plays a
subordinate role in landscape architectural and architec-
tural theory. The concepts of Gestalt and Gestalt quality, as
examples of applied Gestalt theory, have largely fallen out
of use. In any case, the term Gestalt is not very suitable for
describing spaces designed by landscape architects, which
are characterised by intermeshed and ever-changing spaces
with semi-transparent spatial boundaries. The same cannot
be said of self-contained objects with clear boundaries, such
as design artefacts or buildings. Today’s discourse is being
shaped by phenomenologically oriented concepts for the
systematic description of qualitative phenomena.

Two examples of several more recent phenomenologically


6 See Pallasmaa, Juhani: The Eyes oriented works on spatial quality are the publications The
of the Skin — Architecture and the Eyes of the Skin — Architecture and the Senses by Juhani Pal-
Senses. Los Angeles 2012.
lasmaa 6 and Einfühlung und phänomenologische Reduktion.
Grundlagentexte zu Architektur, Design und Kunst (Empathy
7 See Friedrich, Thomas / Gleiter, and Phenomenological Reduction. Fundamental Texts on
Jörg: Einfühlung und phänomenolo- Architecture, Design and Art), a collection of texts published
gische Reduktion. Grundlagentexte zu
by Thomas Friedrich and Jörg Gleiter. 7 The various concepts
Architektur, Design und Kunst. Berlin
2007. of atmosphere have also been developed on the basis of this
phenomenological tradition.

A sound knowledge of qualitative phenomena can also be


found among designers and artists who work actively and
reflectively with the field of qualitative phenomena. As a
result, our available sources of reference include not only
works of art and design as case studies but also published,
subjective design programmes (individual manifestos) as
collections of materials. Normative design programmes and
design manifestos represent important and helpful sources
of inspiration, as well as a challenge for future generations of
designers. However, the consultation of individual-normative
design programmes for the systematic study of qualitative
phenomena is problematic because these design programmes
rarely satisfy the general requirements of a systematic
approach. Instead, they represent individual standpoints
on values, and their applicability is therefore limited. One

12
well-known example is the guiding principle associated with
the vanguard landscapes of Martha Schwartz. 8 Anyone seek-
ing to describe other qualitative phenomena will find little 8 See Richardson, Tim: The Vanguard
help in this normative design programme unless they are Landscapes and Gardens of Martha
Schwartz. New York 2006.
specifically interested in these phenomena or similar issues.

In recent years we have begun using the concept and term


atmosphere for the evaluation and description of qualita-
tive phenomena. This choice of terminology represents a
reaction to the debate on atmospheres that Gernot Böhme
and Michael Hauskeller sparked in the 1990s, inspiring sev-
eral other authors, such as Jürgen Hasse, Achim Hahn 9 and 9 Hahn, Achim: “Atmosphären
Andreas Rauh, to continue working on the issue. We also entwerfen? Zur Hermeneutik des
Erlebnisses von Landschaftlichkeit”.
noticed in numerous discussions with designers that the
In: Weidinger, Jürgen (ed.): Entwurfs-
term atmosphere is often used in the design process and for basiert Forschen. Berlin 2013, p. 69 ff.
the communication of designs.10 This is why we decided that
it would be sensible to advance the study of atmosphere as
a theory and design tool. Designers who are interested in 10 In this article I will not be able
systematic considerations are naturally drawn to the ques- to offer any empirical evidence for
the observation that atmosphere
tion of how the aspect of atmosphere that is used implicitly
plays a prominent role in the design
in the design process can be captured in the form of explicit process, nor am I able to cite any
theory and methodology. notes from the relevant discussions.
The observation arose in the context
of numerous discussions with
other designers and was repeatedly
quaLitative pheNomeNa as atmosphere
confirmed through presentations by
What we are studying is the effect that is created when designers in the context of a series
we move through spaces or are exposed to other aesthetic of events entitled “Wie haben Sie
das gemacht” (“How did you do
situations, like films, images or texts. Atmospheres come
that”) organised by our research unit
into force in a special way through movement in a space. (Fachgebiet).
This movement through space is one of the essential char-
acteristics of landscape architecture; accordingly, the phe-
nomenon of atmosphere is particularly well-suited for dis-
cussing and systematically studying qualitative factors of
landscape architecture and urban spaces. Atmospheres are
most likely a comprehensive phenomenon, meaning that
they are unavoidable in terms of perception and should
therefore always be part of the design process in landscape
architecture. Furthermore, well-made landscape architecture
projects demonstrate that atmospheres can be designed.
This is why we need design methods and analytical instru-
ments that offer criteria for working with atmosphere.
Such criteria could be used by the design disciplines and
in architectural and landscape architectural criticism. In our

13
research up to 2012, when the symposium took place, we had
found only a handful of German-language publications on
the design of atmospheres in the field of urban design and
landscape architecture. This fact also confirms the research
deficit described above.

The aim of this book is to help provide initial answers to the


questions that play an important role in the design process and
the criticism of landscape architecture: What types of atmo-
spheres can be created through landscape architecture? What
types of atmospheres exist? How are atmospheres perceived?
Which theoretical models of atmospheres can be applied?
How can atmospheres be described and documented? What
criteria can be used for understanding atmospheres? Are there
any principles or rules for designing atmospheres? Which
models, strategies and tools do designers use for design-
ing atmospheres in landscape architecture? What roles do
atmospheric qualities play in the context of criticism in art,
theatre, literature and music and, more specifically, in the
disciplines of landscape architecture and urban design?

buiLdiNg bridges from theory to


practice, aNd from practice to theory

As an important aspect of the modus operandi of our research


group (Fachgebiet), we try to build bridges from theory to
practice, and from practice to theory. For Designing Atmo-
spheres, we have followed the argumentation of Jean-Paul
Thibaud, who describes two approaches to theoretical inves-
tigation: firstly, “the implicit approach, in which atmospheres
11 Thibaud, Jean-Paul: “Die sinnliche are viewed exclusively from strictly operational perspectives
Umwelt von Städten. Zum Verstän- …”, and secondly, “the explicit approach, which includes the
dnis urbaner Atmosphären”. In:
attempt to define the term atmosphere … so that its spe-
Hauskeller, Michael (ed.): Die Kunst
der Wahrnehmung. Beiträge zu einer cific characteristics come to light.” 11 This method of build-
Philosophie der sinnlichen Erkenntnis. ing bridges between theory and practice was also used as
Kusterdingen 2003, pp. 280-281. a basis for the choice and order of the articles in this book.

Landscape architects reflect on their design work, focus-


sing on the role of atmospheres, while humanities scholars
pursue the phenomenon of atmosphere from the perspec-
tive of their subject areas. Articles and books from various
authors, such as Michael Hauskeller (Department of Sociology,
Philosophy and Anthropology at the University of Exeter in

14
England), Burkhard Meyer-Sickendiek (Institute of German
and Dutch Languages and Literatures at Freie Universität
Berlin), Rainer Schönhammer (Department of Psychology of
Art and Design at the Burg Giebichenstein University of Art
and Design Halle), Sabine Schouten (Berlin-based theatre
scholar) and Andreas Rauh (art educator), approach the phe-
nomenon of atmosphere from different perspectives, e.g.
literary, art and theatre studies, environmental psychology
and perception theory, in a mutually complementary manner.
The landscape architects Stig L. Andersson (SLA Copenhagen)
and A.W. Faust (Sinai, Berlin) describe the essence of atmo-
spheres, and Kathryn Gustafson (Gustafson Porter + Bow-
man, London, and Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, Seattle) gives
an interview about how she became a landscape architect.

This publication is part of our research activities, which seek


to contribute to the public discussion on landscape archi-
tectural designs and urban design by offering a theoreti-
cal concept and criteria for the discussion and evaluation
of designed atmospheres. We hope that this contribution
will help return the necessary counterbalance to the dis-
course on landscape architecture and urban design, which
has developed with a unilateral focus on the measurabil-
ity of functional requirements. Today, the phenomenon
of atmosphere is complemented by other concepts, such
as the theory of immersion and the theory of presence. It
will be exciting to see how these more recent theories will
influence the future discourse in landscape architecture
and landscape aesthetics.

Translated by Leslie Ocker.

15
16
DEsIGNING AtmosphEREs
pARt 1

17
DEsIGNING AtmosphEREs IN
lANDscApE ARchItEctuRE
Jürgen Weidinger

1 the startiNg poiNt for the


desigN of atmospheres

In the introduction “Atmospheres — Essential for Design-


ers”, I described the starting point for approaching the topic
of designing atmospheres. If we understand spatial quality
as the embedding of functional purposes into qualitative
phenomena, then the question arises as to how the unmea-
surable qualitative phenomena can be studied and made
usable for the design of landscape architecture.

In order to answer this question as a university-based design-


er, I approach the problem of qualitative phenomena from
the perspective of design practice. In this context, I attempt
to compare and contrast designers’ practical understanding
of quality with the findings of scientific studies and to make
this knowledge accessible. My aim is to take the implicit
know-how of designers and make it explicit as know-what.
Design processes and results are analysed with respect
to the qualitative phenomena on the basis of a series of
designs and built projects. The resulting descriptions are
systematised and compared with explicit scientific theories
in order to identify correlations and deviations. I call this
approach design-based theory as an allusion to the concept
of research by design.

The relevant design practice and its protagonists have


extensive knowledge about the creation of affective spatial
compositions. Designers use terms like motif, theme, inten-
sity, expression, impression, mood and atmosphere in order to
guide and intensify the chosen aesthetic effect of the design.
This generally applies to all space-creating design disciplines,
such as urban development, architecture, landscape archi-

19
tecture, interior design and scenography, where technology
and applied art go hand in hand. It applies particularly to
landscape architecture as the design of sites.

My reasoning is based on the fact that the functional require-


ments for landscape architecture are not as clearly defined and
quantifiable as those of civil engineering and architecture.
Depending on the site, landscape architecture can be devel-
oped as a beach, as a forest, as a promenade, with or without
vegetation, with loud or soft background noise, with specific
uses or exclusively as a place to look at. In general, the design
of specific sites in landscape architecture is not completely
influenced by programmes or functions that can be described
by quantities. Owing to this structural openness of decision-
making possibilities in the design process, designers are even
faced with the task of developing a self-chosen aesthetic design
theme because it would otherwise be impossible to make
decisions in the design process. This is why designers, such
as landscape architects, film directors, cameramen and set
designers, are specialists when it comes to guiding spatial,
aesthetic effects. In this respect, experienced designers can
be an excellent source of knowledge on methods for steering
qualitative phenomena and the associated concepts of motif,
theme, atmosphere etc., named above.

The engagement with atmospheric impacts has always been


a part of the process of designing space and is therefore an
important element in the work of designers. The inspira-
tion for pursuing more in-depth research on this topic was
provided by Gernot Böhme, Hermann Schmitz and Michael
Hauskeller, with their contemporary theories on atmosphere,
as well as earlier models by Friedrich Bollnow, with his descrip-
tions of moods, by Hubert Tellenbach’s concept of clouding
(Umwölkung) and by Willy Hellpach’s writings on atmospheric
harmony (atmosphärischer Akkord). Most importantly, all of
these theories and descriptions suggest the possibility that
atmospheres can be designed.

In the following section I will propose a guideline for the


design of atmospheres in landscape architecture and for
the criticism of designs and projects. In a second step, I will
be examining similarities and differences among various
scientific models. This comparison shall serve as a basis for

20
not only improving the guideline for designers, but also dem-
onstrating approaches for refining scientific theories from
the perspective of design practice.

2 guideLiNe for the desigN aNd criticism


of atmospheres

With the help of this guideline, designers can guide the creation
of atmospheric impacts during the design process. However, it
can also be used as a framework of analysis and an analytical
tool for evaluating design projects and implemented designs
in terms of their atmospheric impacts. The guideline repre-
sents a conflation of the experience I have gained through
my practical design work and study of scientific theories on
quality. Additional insights were gained in the context of my
role as a university lecturer, which involves the systematisa-
tion of methodological considerations. The proposed decision
levels are not fundamentally new. What is new, however, is the
compilation and hierarchisation of these decision levels for
the design process so that implicit design knowledge can be
understood with greater precision and applied to the design
of atmospheres. The guideline consists of successive decision
levels that generally lead from the whole to the part.

1. Finding the atmospheric theme for the place


2. Making the atmospheric theme tangible through the
composition of space
3. Guiding movement through the space
4. Integrating behavioural incentives
5. Achieving emphasis through design details

Levels two through five serve to intensify the effect of the


atmospheric theme selected on the first level. Intensity is
achieved through harmonised and complementary percepts.
In this context, all perceptible properties are taken into con-
sideration. Visual, auditory, tactile and olfactory percepts
are complemented by the awareness of our own body, e.g. All illustrations: Departement Seine-
through our sense of balance, the sensation of our muscles Maritime, France. Promenade de
moving as we walk over the topography or the feeling of Bord de mer in St. Valéryen-Caux, by
the sun and shade on our skin. Human perception forms landscape architect Jacques Coulon,
the basis for the cognitive understanding of the meaning Paris, 1989-1990. © Gérard Dufresne,
Paris, adapted by Jürgen Weidinger
and atmosphere of places.

21
The levels are carried out repeatedly and characterised by
increasingly focused analysis phases through which the
design site and its functional requirements are gradually
better understood. Thereby, the concentration on the atmo-
spheric theme directs the design process and guides the
exercise of spatial composition. This process embeds the
fulfilment of functional requirements in a controlled spatial
composition. The end of the repetition process is reached
Fig. 1 inspiration from the site when a sufficiently intense impact has been achieved and
the essential functional requirements are integrated into
the composition. Depending on the situational conditions
of the location or of the designer’s choice of design theme, it
may be useful to work through the levels in a different order
or through jumping ahead and backtracking. The connec-
tion between the overall impact and the individual aspects
remains the central aim in the design process.

2.1 fiNdiNg the atmospheric theme for the pLace


When approaching the site at the beginning of the design
process, initial theses are formulated for the future atmo-
sphere to be designed. This step can be articulated in writing
or through images or collages. In this context, designers follow
their own methodological preferences. The “correctness”,
or rather the suitability, of an atmospheric theme is deter-
mined by the plausibility and the intelligence of the theme’s
reference to the site. A site is characterised by its physical
structure (location, boundaries, topography, basic spatial
structure etc.) and its “mental” structure (e.g. local history
Figs. 2a, 2b finding an atmospheric and culture). In addition, this work always includes the sur-
theme roundings of the site to be designed and its integration into
It is about the sea, about the danger the structure of the city. In the search for the atmospheric
of storm surges, about fascina- theme, the designer must take into consideration the cli-
tion, about high and low tides. The ent’s specifications, such as the objectives and budget, as
interaction between ocean and well as other parameters, including the values and aims of
land becomes the theme. All further
the administrative authorities and political representatives
design decisions take this atmo-
involved in the design process, because a project brief can
spheric theme into consideration.
never offer a sufficient basis for designing the atmospheric
theme. This is how the atmospheric theme can be tailored
to the location and its surroundings, emphasise existing or
hidden qualities or add new qualities to an insignificant site.
If it is not possible to find an atmospheric theme at the begin-
ning of the design process, the designer starts by examining

22
ways of fulfilling functional requirements and examines the
initial compositional approaches. Using these first investiga-
tive steps, we can gain increasing clarity that enables us to
discover and formulate an appropriate atmospheric theme
that can later be further elaborated.

2.2 makiNg the atmospheric theme taNgibLe


through the compositioN of space

Landscape architecture uses a repertoire of spatial instru-


ments for making the desired atmospheric aim tangible
as a spatial composition. At the beginning of the design
process are sketch-like spatial experiments that test a pos-
sible tangibility of the chosen atmospheric theme. Coherent
results, i.e. compositions in which the desired atmospheric
theme becomes perceptible, are chosen and then further
differentiated and intensified for subsequent levels of deci-
sion-making and reflection. In this process the engagement
with the physical-spatial structure of the existing site, as
described above, forms a significant part of the composi-
tion. The peripheral areas of the site are often constituted
by buildings or groups of trees. Any existing bodies of water,
trees, topography or other idiosyncrasies of the site are taken
into consideration in its spatial recomposition. The choice
of an atmospheric theme should be made as early as the
first level of the guideline through the consideration of the
site’s physical and mental characteristics. The successful
correlation between an atmospheric design theme and a
site’s requirements results in an appropriate design concept. Figs. 3a, 3b creation of atmo-
sphere through spatial composition
All humans have a sensitivity to the aesthetic impact of places Protective walls draw themselves
and are more or less able to share these experiences. In this into the space at various heights,
respect, it is generally possible to discuss these experiences forming a gentle arch that mirrors
the basic shape of the bay’s coastline.
argumentatively (intersubjectively). Certain spatial compo-
When viewed against the backdrop
sitions produce their own impacts. It is astonishing that, in
of the ocean, the composition of the
spite of a limited repertoire of space-defining elements, such
walls, in spite of their structural
as topography, vegetation, stairs and surfacing materials, all massiveness, resembles a playful
kinds of atmospheric motifs can be achieved in landscape arrangement of lines. Beach, ocean,
architecture. Designers build on this fact and develop a spe- walls and the edge of the cliff create
cial interest in the complex of spatial compositions. Some an intense atmosphere.
designers archive sketches and photos, or train themselves
to retrieve the aesthetic effects from their memory. Other
designers put these correlations into words. All designers

23
observe the environment, visit influential projects and use
them as references in their future design work.

Until now, elementaristic descriptions have often been used


for discussing spatial qualities in academic discourse. By
this, I mean the use of basic design-theory operations, such
1 See Wilkens, Michael: Architektur as contrast, symmetry and proportion, for explaining the
als Komposition. Basle Boston Berlin impact of spatial compositions. Most design guidelines, for
2010.
example Michael Wilkens’ manual on architecture 1 or Grant
Reid’s guide to landscape architecture, 2 are based on these
2 See Reid, Grant W.: From Con- elementaristic design principles. A similar approach can be
cept to Form in Landscape Design. seen in the attempt to ascribe spatial quality to the smallest
Chichester 2007.
spatial elements and situations of a spatial composition,
like the approach developed by Hans Loidl in his design prin-
3 See Loidl, Hans / Bernard, Stefan: ciples for open space. 3 Designers who follow this approach
Freiräumen. Entwerfen als Land- risk losing sight of the design objective and the desired
schaftsarchitektur. Basle Boston
atmospheric effect. Only a few publications on the design
Berlin 2003.
process examine and deal with the relationship between
the aesthetic aim of a landscape architecture project and
4 See Meisenheimer, Wolfgang: Das its spatial composition. In order to incorporate the concept
Denken des Leibes und der architek- of atmosphere in our investigations, we must abandon the
tonische Raum. Cologne 2004.
elementaristic perspective. This approach can be seen in the
writings of, for example, Wolfgang Meisenheimer 4 and of
5 See Pallasmaa, Juhani: The Eyes Juhani Pallasmaa 5 and could be given greater consideration
of the Skin — Architecture and the in the future study of qualitative phenomena and atmo-
Senses. Los Angeles 2012.
spheres in landscape architecture and landscape aesthetics.

2.3 guidiNg movemeNt through the space


What the functional approach simply views as access contains
a much greater wealth of possibilities from the point of view
of atmospheric impacts. To make this more understandable
for students, I also describe this design level as “can move
through” and “can’t move through” in order to express the
wide range of possibilities for movement in the space. The
possibilities range from direct links and pleasant detours,
to areas that are inaccessible to the visitor, such as water
surfaces, topographic features or rough materials on the
ground that are uncomfortable to walk on.

Paths and plaza-like features steer us through the space,


reveal or hide views, arouse curiosity, motivate us to certain
behaviours and either encourage or hinder contact with

24
other people. Here, it becomes clear how important tailored
design decisions are in the context of the various levels of
the guideline. The movement in the space is directly related
to the spatial composition, meaning that the decision lev-
els “Making the atmospheric theme tangible through the
composition of space” and “Guiding movement through the
space” are very closely linked. The movement in the space
is guided by the created spatial situation, and the space
creation should give sense to the movements of the per-
son orienting themselves in the space. Taking this idea a
step further, the designer can also encourage or even steer
rapid movements, for example, through the shape of the
path composition and through the surface properties of
the path. The same applies to slowing down and stopping
movement. This also reveals the link to the next two deci-
sion levels and illustrates the fundamental principle that
all design decisions at all levels should be harmonised to
the greatest possible extent.
Figs. 4a, 4b sensing the atmosphere
The movement in the space is one of the most important through movement through the
space
characteristics of the experience of open spaces designed
The paths that form between the
through landscape architecture. Landscape architecture cre-
walls offer movements parallel
ates series of spaces or spatial networks. This is why open
to the shoreline. The inability to
spaces can best be experienced through movement. The move directly to the sea makes the
otherwise so dominant sense of sight, by itself, is unable fundamental relationship between
to fully grasp this spatial distinctiveness. This is where the ocean and land tangible through the
discipline of landscape architecture distinguishes itself from act of moving. The location is made
design and architecture. With design artefacts, the senses of accessible through movement, first
sight and touch are paramount. In architecture, priority is atmospherically, then intellectually.
given to private and protected spaces for living or working.
(There are, of course, exceptions: e.g. some public build-
ings with “more landscape architectural” design concepts,
like theatres and museums.) In this context, the disciplines
should not be played off against each other. My aim is to
show that each discipline has its own priorities and must
develop the appropriate design principles. In the field of
landscape architecture there is a particularly close correla-
tion between the perception of atmosphere and the role of
movement in the space. The verb design, which is now used
for various disciplines and a wide range of activities, must
therefore be considered in a more differentiated manner.

25
2.4 iNtegratiNg behaviouraL iNceNtives

In place of the term use, I would like to introduce the concept


of behavioural incentives (Verhaltensangebote). The term use
emphasises the functional character of the landscape architec-
ture and leads to the development of standardised programmes
which result in the creation of places that tend to look the same.
There is no denying that certain behavioural incentives, such
as areas for sporting activities, must be produced in a similar
or even identical manner, above all when the dimensions are
part of the conditions for competition. However, the question
arises as to whether the same playgrounds for children and
e.g. chess areas for adults and the common, standardised park
benches must be used in every open space.

Behavioural incentives are to be understood more as indi-


vidually selectable, open and surprising moments in the
open space than as programme fulfilment. Elaborated or
informal behavioural incentives, each developed on the basis
of the atmospheric theme, are manifestly integrated into
the composition of the spatial elements, complementing
the paths, as well as the places where the paths broaden out.

At the same time, behavioural incentives must be specifically


tailored to the design. For example, climbing opportunities
are better suited to a boulder park or to the ruins of a former
industrial complex than to a spa or wetland park.

Spatial compositions consist of recurring and more or less


neutral situations, which should be complemented by areas
for specific behavioural incentives derived from the design
theme. Contemporary cities should offer amazement and
Figs. 5a, 5b intensification of the stimulation for their inhabitants. This can be achieved if
atmosphere through thematically landscape architecture embraces all urban phenomena,
related behavioural incentives
devotes itself equally to unwieldy sites and incorporates
The walls offer opportunities to sit.
them as special places in the publicly accessible open spaces.
The spacing between these elements
Specific opportunities can make supposedly unattractive
was designed so as to enable visitors
to communicate from one wall to the
sites interesting, for example, under bridges, near the exhaust
next, over the path. What occurs is that shafts of underground rapid transit systems, beside strangely
the girls sit on one of the walls, and the buzzing structures of technical infrastructure or in the area
boys on the opposite wall in order to around industrial bakeries, where the air smells like bread.
cautiously approach each other. The
older visitors look on nostalgically.

26
The important aspects in this context are not only the
selection of special behavioural incentives and their place-
ment, but also the special way in which these incentives
are elaborated. In this respect, a place to sit — as a recurring
element—can offer a multitude of design possibilities. Many
design variations for places to sit are conceivable, depending
on the chosen atmospheric design theme. Visitors can sit
either in a sheltered location beside a footpath or exposed
in the middle of the path in order to place themselves in
contact with other people. They also can be placed far away
from a path that is only reachable via a side trail.

The design of behavioural incentives allows for various


experiences in the open space that are in harmony with
the targeted atmospheric effect while at the same time
intensifying it. The appropriate placement and elaboration
increases the “intelligence of a space” and offers “emotional”
and — on this basis — also “intellectual” sustainability. This
is how we can create landscape architecture that never gets
boring, even after decades of visiting the site.

On the basis of this concept for the design of atmospheric


impacts, it is wise to question the current trend of using 6 In this context, mention can be
public opinion polls to identify the preferences of the so-called made of the controversy that was
sparked by Wulf Tessin when he
“users”. Owing to the fact that the surveyed individuals lack
introduced the aesthetic of the
the necessary education and training in spatial quality and layperson’s tastes as a concept in
the design of landscape architecture,6 they usually cannot reference to landscape architecture.
fathom new, special and site-related behavioural incentives. See Tessin, Wulf: “Landschaftsarchi-
tektur und Laiengeschmack – über
This is why these surveys always yield nearly the same results
die Ablehnung moderner Land-
in every city and for every site. The common preferences, such schaftsarchitektur durch die Nutzer”.
as children’s playgrounds, herb gardens and generally “more In: Garten + Landschaft, Vol. 119,
green”, can be expected. I am not arguing against the prefer- Issue 2, pp. 8-9. In response to this
controversy, Wulf Tessin renamed his
ences of the people interviewed. It is clear that their input must
observation aesthetic of the pleasant
be taken seriously. However, equally clear is the fact that the (Ästhetik des Angenehmen).
landscape architects and government offices responsible for
designing landscape architecture projects are already familiar
with these expectations. I would like to disagree with the
planning facilitators and organisers of planning processes
who misinterpret the participatory methods as a substitute
for the design and, by doing so, promote the creation of pre-
dictable and banal projects. Contemporary urbanity calls for
professional and intelligent design solutions that combine
the new with the above-described expectations.

27
2.5 achieviNg emphasis through desigN detaiLs
Lastly, the atmospheric effect is further intensified through
the decision level of design details. All space-defining ele-
ments, all ground surfaces and the elaboration of all behav-
ioural incentives should be detailed in accordance with the
atmospheric theme. This involves the selection of materials,
the choice of vegetation, the decision on how the materials
should be arranged, the re-evaluation of colour and light
qualities and the specifications for future maintenance work.
Vegetation, as a living and constantly changing material,
requires appropriate care. Different atmospheres, such as
the metallic atmosphere of a post-industrial heavy metal
park, the cheerful atmosphere of a spa park or the melan-
cholic atmosphere of a former graveyard, require the use
of specially selected materials and plants.

In the context of this decision level, the experience of the space


is further intensified. In a literal sense, the visual, tactile and
auditory perception of the visitor is further amplified until
the atmospheric theme can be perceived through the senses
at any level of detail. The decision level of designing details
fulfils the design specifications of the previous decision levels.
Returning to the example of movement through the space,
the use of smooth and jointless surfaces of paths can promote
fast-rolling movement while rough, irregular ground surfaces
with multiple joints encourage slow and careful walking.

Designers are well aware that, in times of tight public bud-


Figs. 6a, 6b intensification of the gets, it is necessary to use materials (plants and building
atmosphere through design details materials) in a disciplined manner and that durability and
The site is made of stone. The exposed maintenance requirements must be taken into consider-
aggregate walls and concrete path-
ation. However, the tightening of budgets and the setting of
ways blend into the shingle beach and
development and material standards in our cities has led to a
rocky bluffs. The ocean swirls around
situation in which an increasing number of new open spaces
the “stoneness”, which causes varia-
tions of the site’s appearance.
are nearly identical, and the potential for the development
of site-specific atmospheres can no longer be realised. This
effect is exacerbated by the above-mentioned methods of
citizen participation, the slogan “service, safety, cleanliness”
reminiscent of the advertising jargon of Deutsche Bahn and
the bureaucratic implementation of the principles of uni-
versal design. The discourse on the design of atmospheres
should help achieve changes in development policies for
landscape architecture.

28
3 scieNtific modeLs of quaLity
The content of the proposed guideline can be compared with
explicit models of quality offered by different sciences. By
doing so, shortcomings in explicit theory can be identified
and design practice improved. The decision levels of the
guideline exhibit similarities and parallels to theoretical
models or to individual elements of such models.

Scientific quality theories cover a broad spectrum. In the


following, I will discuss a few selected models that have been
particularly influential. On the basis of several systematic, 7 I borrowed the term descriptive
descriptive models, 7 I will attempt to substantiate the rel- models from: Schweppenhäuser,
Gerhard: Ästhetik. Philosophische
evance of the design guideline. In this context, models from
Grundlagen und Schlüsselbegriffe.
the empirically based discipline of psychology are particu- Frankfurt am Main 2007.
larly worthy of consideration, and in cases where empiri-
cism cannot be used, systematic theories of perception and
experience from the humanities will be discussed. While 8 Mode 2 sciences are characterised
the majority of these models come from German-speaking by the fact that knowledge is not
only generated at research insti-
countries, several are from the English-speaking world. It
tutions, but also produced in the
would also be interesting to investigate theories of quality context of application. See Nowotny,
from other language cultures. For example, it was through Helga / Scott, Peter / Gibbons, Michael:
my communications with Chinese colleagues that I learned Re-Thinking Science: Knowledge and
the Public in an Age of Uncertainty.
about the traditional model of the Jin, which, like the concept
Oxford 2001.
of Mode 2 sciences, 8 combines quantitative, qualitative and
ethical aspects with practical aspects.

In my investigation of the models for quality, I chose not to


focus on the normative design programmes of designers or
the normative manifestos of publicists that often dictate the
discourse on architectural theory and the theory of landscape
architecture. I take normative theory to mean approaches
to design in the sense of aesthetic programmes that act as
a perception guide for avant-garde works of art and design
outcomes, describing what special and new aspects can be
perceived in avant-garde outcomes. Normative aesthetics
play an important role when innovative designs are evaluated
in the discourse. Younger designers follow the normative
design programmes of the older generations of designers
and differentiate themselves from their predecessors through
the development of new programmes. Owing to the fact
that the positions of normative aesthetics are generally
not interested in comparability and systematisation, such
objectives will not be considered here.

29
3.1 modeLs from NaturaL scieNces
As a triumph over atomistic psychology, which took the
approach of breaking perception down into various small
sensations and measuring it quantitatively, the first gen-
eration of experimental psychological research in the 19th
century investigated holistic perception outcomes. The
qualitative phenomena of landscape architecture can also
9 See Wölfflin, Heinrich: Prolegome- be understood as holistic percepts. Gestalt psychology was
na zu einer Psychologie der Architek- developed in Vienna and Berlin, and holistic psychology (Ganz-
tur. Berlin 1999. Original 1897.
heitspsychologie) in Leipzig. These insights were taken up
and developed further by exponents of the theory of empa-
10 See Lipps, Theodor: Raumästhe- thy (Einfühlungstheorie) in the field of art and architectural
tik und geometrisch-optische Täu- theory, including Heinrich Wölfflin, 9 Theodor Lipps 10 and
schungen. Leipzig 1897.
Robert Vischer 11 at the end of the 19th century.

11 See Vischer, Robert: “Über das The attitude research (Einstellungsforschung) from the mid-
optische Formgefühl”. In: Fried- 20th century was the second generation of psychological
rich, Thomas / Gleiter, Jörg H. (eds.):
research to investigate aesthetic impacts. Using the seman-
Einfühlung und phänomenologische
Reduktion: Grundlagentexte zu Archi- tic differential, the emotional effects of works of art can be
tektur, Design und Kunst. Münster measured quantitatively as the measurement of meaning,
2007. Original 1872. according to a book of the same name by Osgood, Suci and
Tannenbaum.12 This method of measurement involves the
12 See Osgood, Charles E. / Suci, assessment of designed artefacts, for example of an image,
George J. / Tannenbaum, Percy H.: The by various observers. The respondents rate the effect of
Measurement of Meaning. Illinois
the image with the help of attributes like “friendly” and
1957.
“unfriendly” on the basis of a multi-dimensional scale.
After a sufficient quantity of data is collected, the responses
13 The concepts are described in are averaged to make the emotional effects of the image
Schönhammer, Rainer: Einführung understandable in quantitative terms. These types of stud-
in die Wahrnehmungspsychologie.
ies, like those of Berlyne in 1971 and Kaplan and Kaplan in
Sinne, Körper, Bewegung. Vienna
2009, p. 240. 1989,13 were continued in the 1970s as part of the research
that was conducted on aesthetic preference. These studies
were applied in the field of marketing and as environmen-
tal quality indices in environmental psychology and visual
14 See Nohl, Werner: Landschafts- landscape assessment (Landschaftsbildbewertung).14 The use
planung. Ästhetische und rekreative of these methods in visual landscape assessment reduces
Aspekte. Berlin Hanover 2001.
the possible range of aesthetic experiences because the
visual landscape can only be assessed with a given number
of attributes. This reduction to a few attributes yields inad-
equate results and therefore cannot be used for describing
the manifold impacts of landscape architecture. Today, the
research focus psychological aesthetics at the University of
Vienna has moved beyond historical preference research

30
to investigate the aesthetic processing of human experi-
ence. These researchers are examining “the pleasure that is
experienced by viewing artwork and the understanding, the 15 See Institute for Basic Psychologi-
processing of complexity in art, emotional impacts and the cal Research and Research Meth-
ods (IPGF), Faculty of Psychology,
appreciation of innovative product design”.15 Their aim is to
University of Vienna. Research focus
understand how design qualities are processed into empirical Psychological Aesthetics. URL: www.
qualities on the basis of a model of aesthetic appreciation aesthetics.univie.ac.at/fileadmin/
from the perspectives of cognitive psychology developed by user_upload/p_allgemeine_psy/
Diverses/Broschüre_2013_FSP_Psy-
Leder, Belke, Oeberst and Augustin.16 The authors believe that
chologische_Ästhetik.pdf (as con-
the model is applicable not only to works of art, but also “to sulted online on 15 August 2013).
all forms of aesthetic perception”, meaning also to spaces
designed by landscape architects. The model consists of a
five-stage processing procedure, comprising “perceptual 16 See Leder, Helmut/Belke, Benno/
analyses, implicit memory integration, explicit classifica- Oeberst, Andries/Augustin, Doro-
thee: “A model of aesthetic appre-
tion, cognitive mastering and evaluation”, which can also
ciation and aesthetic judgements”.
run through feedback loops. Direct parallels can be drawn to In: British Journal of Psychology, 95,
the design of atmospheric effects in landscape architecture. 2004, pp. 489-508.
In both the theoretical model and the design process, the
aim is to understand and manipulate the desired design
effect with ever-increasing precision.

It remains to be seen to what extent psychological aesthetics


will also be able to provide inputs for the scientific explana-
tions of how mental concepts arise on the basis of designed
spaces. “In perceptual research, the hitherto unknown prin-
ciples that could explain how subjective, qualitative sen-
sations can arise from objective and quantifiable stimuli
are referred to as the qualia problem [...].”17 This raises the 17 Leder, Helmut / Ansorge, Ulrich:
question of how mental concepts about the world arise Wahrnehmung und Aufmerksamkeit.
Wiesbaden 2011, p. 13.
from sensory impressions. In other words, this also covers
the aim of creating impacts, as a general aim of design.
The purpose of the thought experiment “What Mary didn’t
know”, which was developed in 1986 by the Australian phi-
losopher Frank Cameron Jackson, was to clarify the qualia
problem.18 Jackson describes the neuroscientist Mary, who 18 See Jackson, Frank C.: “What Mary
knows everything there is to know about perceiving colour. didn’t know”. In: Journal of Philoso-
phy 83, 1986, pp. 291-295. Reprinted in
Although she understands all of the physical and physiologi-
Ludlow, Peter / Nagasawa, Yujin / Stol-
cal principles and mechanisms of colour vision, Mary has jar, Daniel (eds.): There’s Something
been confined from birth to a black-and-white laboratory About Mary: Essays on Phenomenal
and has therefore never seen colours first-hand. When she Consciousness and Frank Jackson’s
Knowledge Argument. Cambridge
then sees colours for the first time, she learns something
2004, pp. 51-56.
new through the subjective experience of colour perception.
Jackson concludes that, accordingly, Mary had previously

31
19 See Menninghaus, Winfried: not known everything about colour vision and that physi-
Wozu Kunst – Ästhetik nach Darwin. cal explanations of colour vision are inadequate. Designers
Berlin 2011.
who work with aesthetic phenomena can fully understand
20 See Ciompi, Luc: Die emotionalen the need for experience, i.e. experience in the context of
Grundlagen des Denkens. Entwurf reception and design practice. Today, increased efforts are
einer fraktalen Affektlogik [The emo-
being made to find scientific solutions to the problem of
tional bases of thinking. Outline of a
fractal affect-logic]. Göttingen 1997. aesthetic impacts. On the one hand, evolutionary theory
is stepping onto the playing field. Winfried Menninghaus
21 See Rizzolatti, Giacomo; Siniga- has advanced a theory of aesthetics based on Darwin. 19
glia, Corrado: Mirrors in the Brain: In this theory, qualities are described as functions in the
How Our Minds Share Actions and
context of sexual courtship practices. This theory has yet
Emotions [Original title: So quel che
fai. Il cervello che agisce e i neuroni to be studied in reference to landscape architecture and
specchio]. New York 2008. does not seem to play an important role in this field. On
the other hand, the technologically well-equipped field of
22 See Peirce, Charles S.: Pragmatism neuroscience claims that these questions can be answered
as a principle and method of right through neuropsychology and neuroaesthetics. However, the
thinking. The 1903 Harvard Lectures
link between the firing of neurons and the development of
on pragmatism. Albany 1997. Original
1903. intense and complex atmospheres has yet to be explained.
Current scientific concepts, such as the notion of affect-logic
23 See Dewey, John: Art as Experi- introduced by Luc Ciompi 20 or the discovery of mirror neurons
ence. New York 1934. by Giacomo Rizzolatti, 21 have yet to be made useful for the
description of qualitative phenomena.
24 See Klages, Ludwig: Ausdrucks-
bewegung und Gestaltungskraft.
Munich 1968. Original 1913. 3.2 modeLs from the humaNities
25 See Binswanger, Ludwig: “Das When empirical evidence is impossible to find, the natural
Raumproblem in der Psychopatholo- sciences lose their relevance. This is where the humanities
gie. 1932”. In: Ausgewählte Vorträge
come in, with their methods of logical argumentation. In
und Aufsätze, Vol. 2. Berne 1955.
this sense, we are forced to supplement the scientific expla-
26 See Von Ehrenfels, Christian: nations from experimental psychology with models from
“Über Gestaltqualitäten”. In: Vier- the humanities. The humanities have described holistic,
teljahresschrift für wissenschaftliche
qualitative effects through various models. These include
Philosophie, Issue 13. Leipzig 1890.
the theory of abduction proposed by Charles Sanders Peirce,22
27 See Koehler, Wolfgang: Gestalt the pervasive quality from John Dewey, 23 the total quality
psychology. The definite statement of (Ganz-qualität) from Ludwig Klages,24 the tuned space ( gestim-
the Gestalt theory. New York London
mter Raum) from Ludwig Binswanger 25 and the theory of
1992. Original 1947.
Gestalt perception (Gestaltwahrnehmung) that was described
28 See Wertheimer, Max: Drei by authors like Christian von Ehrenfels, 26 Wolfgang Köhler27
Abhandlungen über Gestalttheorie. and Max Wertheimer 28 in the first half of the 20th century.
Darmstadt 1967. Original 1925.
Rudolf Arnheim’s concept of Gestalt qualities, 29 which was
29 See Arnheim, Rudolph: The influential in the field of architectural theory in the 1960s
Dynamics of Architectural Form. and 1970s, was developed on the basis of Gestalt percep-
Berkeley 1977.
tion. The aforementioned models deal with the Gestalt laws,

32
which explain that and how Gestalt qualities of a higher
order develop through our perception of sensory data. This is
how we organise the wealth of information that reaches us
and how Gestalt and signs emerge from visual structures.
Notes become melodies, and individual taste components 30 See Rumelhart, David E.: “Notes
become the multisensory flavour experience of a culinary on a schema for stories”. In: Bobrow,
Daniel G. / Collins, Allen (eds.): Repre-
dish. Owing to the fact that landscape architecture comprises
sentation and Understanding. Studies
the combination of spatial sequences, transitions and scenes in Cognitive Science. Cambridge 1975,
rather than a single object like in design and architecture, the pp. 211-236.
applicability of Gestalt theory to the description of landscape-
architectural spaces is limited. It is not possible to apply the 31 See Fauser, Markus: Einführung
law of prägnanz from Max Wertheimer or the figure-ground in die Kulturwissenschaft. Darmstadt
2008. p. 89.
relationship to the diffuse spatial structures dominated by
vegetation, for example those of a park.
32 See Bollnow, Otto Friedrich: Das
We generally perceive a collection of trees as a forest or, in Wesen der Stimmungen. Frankfurt
am Main 1956.
urban surroundings, as a park. However, the recognition of
the Gestalten, such as a forest or park, says nothing about the
particular atmosphere and design impact of a forest-like park. 33 See Tellenbach, Hubert:
Geschmack und Atmosphäre. Salz-
burg 1968.
From the field of memory research, we can cite the model
of story grammar from David Rumelhart. 30 Story grammar
describes the tendency in the memory process to construct 34 I found Willy Hellpach’s delight-
an experience or a coherent narrative from individual memo- ful term atmospheric harmonies in
a publication by Hasse, Jürgen: Zur
ries, even if the memories have to be improved (falsified) in
Macht von Atmosphären – im Regie-
the process. “Anything that is not narratively structured is ren der Stadt wie des eigenen Selbst.
lost to memory. The typical form of framing experience is 2013. URL: www.ibahamburg.de/
therefore the form of story-telling.” 31 Blockbuster Hollywood fileadmin/Erleben_2013/ Kongresse/
Stadt_Neu_Bauen/SNB_ Hasse.pdf
films take advantage of this effect by using happy endings.
(as consulted online on 15 August
Art house cinema also builds on this effect when it avoids 2013).
happy endings or incorporates irritations in the narrative.

More suitable for measuring the effects of spaces in land- 35 See Schmitz, Hermann: System
scape architecture are the models of tuned space (gestimmter der Philosophie. Volume 3: Der Raum.
Part 2: Der Gefühlsraum. Bonn 1969.
Raum), the description of moods by Friedrich Otto Bollnow,32
the term clouding (Umwölkung) from Hubert Tellenbach, 33
the concept of atmospheric chord from Willy Hellpach 34 36 See Böhme, Gernot: Atmosphäre.
and, above all, the models of atmosphere from Hermann Frankfurt am Main 1995.
Schmitz, 35 Gernot Böhme 36 and Michael Hauskeller. 37 As
described above, the possibility of achieving effects through 37 See Hauskeller, Michael: Atmos-
design is self-evident for designers. Astonishingly, it was phären erleben. Philosophische Unter-
suchungen zur Sinneswahrnehmung.
not until Gernot Böhme that this possibility was accepted
Berlin 1995.
from a theoretical perspective and investigated in the con-

33
text of design practice. On a phenomenological basis and
in contrast to semiotics, which was developed in the field of
language philosophy, Böhme emphasised the significance
of the physical space as a locational space (Ortsraum), com-
posed of surroundings and relative spatial relations, i.e. from
qualitative conditions rather than quantitative dimensions.
“It is more important to remember that mathematics recog-
nises the difference between topological and metric spaces.
This difference reflects the two basic concepts of space in
European philosophy, namely Aristotle’s space qua topos
38 Böhme, Gernot: Atmosphäre. and Descartes’ space qua spatium.” 38 This is another refer-
Frankfurt am Main 1995, pp. 44-45. ence to the relationship between quality and quantity, or
effect and function. The atmospheric effect arises from the
arrangement of things in relation to one another. Böhme
describes atmosphere as the phenomenon that mediates
between the outside world and our inner experience. Under
39 Ibid., p. 34. the heading “The Making of Atmospheres” 39 he attempts to
build a bridge between the analytical approach and design
practice and, in doing so, makes the following observation:
“However, it can be assumed in particular that there is an
incredible wealth of knowledge about atmospheres in the
practical know-how of the aesthetic workers [author’s note:
a quite unpleasant expression]. This knowledge should be
able to provide information on the relationship between
the objective characteristics of objects (everyday objects,
artwork, elements of nature) and the atmospheres they proj-
40 Ibid., p. 35. ect.” 40 Here, explicit scientific theory is seeking contact with
design-based theory. It would be wise to answer their call.

An important element of Gernot Böhme’s atmosphere theory


can be criticised from the perspective of design practice,
and a suggestion can be formulated for the improvement
of his theory. Böhme’s explanations about what he calls the
generators of atmosphere do not cover the most important
process of design: the composition. The composition process,
i.e. the selection of the elements, their special arrangement
and their elaboration, is the decisive moment that creates the
“added value” of a targeted and successfully implemented
effect. Böhme lists the following elements as generators of
atmosphere: geometry, shape, proportion and dimension,
along with light, colour, sounds, signs, symbols and materi-
41 Ibid., p. 45. als. 41 However, these are only the elements of compositions;
the composition itself is not included. Herein lies one of the

34
most important structural differences between artistic-design
thinking and scientific thinking. A fundamental principle of
the explicit sciences is to dissect the object of study into small
units. As a result, the process of composition as the synthesis
of these small units is overlooked or underestimated. This
example also shows that design-based theory is able to reveal
ambiguities and gaps in the theories of explicit sciences.

Several exponents of visual culture (Bildwissenschaft) are also


arguing for a bridge between design practice and human life.
“The assumption that perception in general and image per-
ception in particular can be understood less as a passive than
as an active faculty, as is suggested by the research from the
fields of developmental psychology and neuroscience, would 42 Sauer, Martina: “Entwicklung-
also have far-reaching implications for the interpretation, as spsychologie/Neurowissenschaft
und Kunstgeschichte. Ein Beitrag zur
well as the design, of works of art. This assumption supports
Diskussion von Form als Grundlage
the thesis of Lambert Wiesing (a German philosopher special- von Wahrnehmungs- und Gestal-
ising in visual culture) that there is an analogy between the tungsprinzipien”. In: Kunstgeschichte.
principles of perception and design.” 42 This position is based Open peer reviewed journal, 2011.
URL: www.kunstgeschichte-ejournal.
on qualitative and intermodal perception as affective activity
net/316/1/Entwicklungspsycholo-
and is justified by references to positions of developmental gie_05062011_MSauer_neu.pdf.
psychology, e.g. from Heinz Werner or, later, Daniel Stern. 43
Affective activity is defined as the perception of the world
in the form of impacts, meaning a form of perception that 43 See Stern, Daniel: Diary of a Baby:
suggests a close relatedness to atmospheres. What Your Child Sees, Feels, and Expe-
riences. New York 1990.

The interplay of the senses is described by Gernot Böhme


as synaesthetic perception 44 and by Rainer Schönhammer as
multisensory perception of transmodal qualities.45 Synaesthe-
sia also plays an important role within the phenomenon of 44 Böhme, Gernot: Atmosphäre.
immersion currently under discussion. The art of immersion Frankfurt am Main 1995, pp. 90-94.
(Immersionskunst) refers to the effect of being drawn into
and immersed in digitally created environments. However, 45 See Schönhammer, Rainer: Ein-
this effect also applies to spatial design as a whole. “The führung in die Wahrnehmungspsy-
chologie. Sinne, Körper, Bewegung.
architectural approach describes an aesthetic process that
Vienna 2009, pp. 221-237.
today we would refer to as immersion,”46 explained the edi-
tors of the journal ARCH+, examining the subject of presence.
From the perspective of aesthetic impacts, this immersion 46 Kuhnert, Nikolaus / Ngo, Anh-
and experience of being drawn into something can also be Linh / Becker, Stephan / Luce, Martin:
“Die Produktion von Präsenz”. In:
achieved with the spatial instruments of landscape archi-
ARCH+ magazine for architecture and
tecture, for example through the skilful coordination of the urbanism. 19 (178) 2006, p. 24.
individual design decisions of the above-proposed guideline.

35
Movement through space and the collaboration of all sens-
es in perception is a concept that has also been similarly
addressed by the theorists of perception and atmosphere,
such as Willy Hellpach with the term Ergehen (“sensing
through walking”) or Gernot Böhme with “the movement
47 See Böhme, Gernot: Atmosphäre. of the body through a kind of topological space of neighbour-
Frankfurt am Main 1995. hoods”. 47 Movement also plays a key role in the ecological
theory of perception developed by James J. Gibson, 48 where
48 See Gibson, James Jerome: The he describes perception as reacting to affordances which are
Ecological Approach to Visual Percep- caused by spatial configurations of elements. Another theory
tion. Boston 1975.
that emphasises the significance of movement is enactivism.
This theory of perception describes the interplay between
action/movement and perception as action in perception 49
49 See Noe, Alva: Action in Percep- and even views cognition as arising from activity. In the
tion. Boston 2006. experience of a landscape-architectural space, cognition
means the development of the initial sense of atmosphere
into an aesthetic judgement. On this basis, I put forward the
theory that, in a successfully designed landscape-architec-
tural space, the sensing of atmosphere can trigger emotional
well-being. Furthermore, the gradual cognitive recognition
and evaluation of the spatial design can give intellectual
pleasure to visitors who are so inclined.

With reference to the interplay between the detail and the


whole, an additional parallel exists between the design guide-
line and Oskar Bätschmann’s analytical model of hermeneutics
50 See Bätschmann, Oskar: Einfüh- in art history. 50 The circular relationship between the different
rung in die kunstgeschichtliche Her- levels of meaning for a work of art, as described in herme-
meneutik. Die Auslegung von Bildern.
neutics, is equivalent to the formulated relationship between
Darmstadt 1992.
the holistic atmospheric impact and the role of details in the
design. Hermeneutics as a methodology of interpretation is
based on insights from the field of semiotics. In this sense, the
models of semiotics are helpful when pre-linguistic sensing,
through movement and activity in space, leads to a cognitive
assessment based on the spatial experience.

3.3 comparisoN of scieNtific modeLs for quaLity


with the guideLiNe for desigNiNg atmospheres

The comparison of the design guideline with scientific mod-


els for quality reveals several convincing correlations that
underpin the approach of designing atmospheres.

36
The emphasis on the conscious and exact coordination of
individual decisions in the context of the guideline finds
a parallel in the scientific models described here. We can
observe a departure from the elementaristic description
of spatial qualities and a shifting of interest towards the
interplay between the individual elements as a composition
and the resulting qualitative effects. In the criticism of the
design outcomes, these parallels can promote an under-
standing of atmospheric impacts.

Another important finding is that several of the aforemen-


tioned models of quality describe the perception of aesthetic 51 See Wiesing, Lambert: Die Sicht-
impacts as a design process, as seen in the writings of Lam- barkeit des Bildes. Geschichte und
Perspektiven der formalen Ästhetik.
bert Wiesing51 or in Konrad Fiedler’s description of perception
Frankfurt am Main 2008. See also
140 years ago as unconscious designing (unbewusstes Gestalt- footnote 41.
en). 52 There are similarities between the design principles
used by designers and the rules that define perception. It 52 See Fiedler, Konrad: Schriften zur
can therefore be assumed that the design principles used Kunst. Edited by Gottfried Boehm.
Munich 1971.
by the designer play a role in the human experience of the
space and that designed atmospheres can be experienced
by people in a similar manner.

The multisensory and physical experience of space rep-


resents another correlation between the experiences of
design practice and theoretical concepts. Just as semiotics
had to step back from its role as the dominant interpreta-
tion instrument of landscape architecture, the approach of
viewing landscape architecture as a built sign (or even built
signs), which was used in the 1980s and early 1990s, has also
become obsolete. The acknowledgement of all perceptual
senses in the description of spatial quality and in the design
process challenges the dominance of the visual perceptual
sense and opens up the possibility of bringing the landscape
architectural design into better alignment with the other
senses, thereby developing intense spatial atmospheres. A
knowledge about the mechanism of multisensory perception
is essential for enabling those who are discursively involved
in the planning process, such as representatives from the
administrative authorities, policymakers and citizens, to
better understand the phenomenon of atmosphere and
appreciate it as a contemporary contribution to urbanity.

37
Mention should also be made of the exponents who reject the
concept of atmospheric effects. Some authors describe limita-
tions in the human capacity to perceive atmospheres, limitations
that are caused either by an individual’s emotional state, for
53 See Hahn, Achim: “Atmosphären example sadness or great solicitude, 53 or by cultural condition-
entwerfen? Zur Hermeneutik des ing. As it cannot be assumed that everyone who spends time in
Erlebnisses von Landschaftlichkeit”.
urban open spaces will be in an extreme individual-emotional
In: Weidinger, Jürgen (ed.): Entwurfs-
basiert Forschen. Berlin 2013. situation, most people have the capacity for being affected by
the space. What we can assume is that, for globalised urban
societies, there will be a convergence of cultural condition-
ing and preconceptions. The possibility that some individuals
may have a limited capacity to perceive atmospheres should
not make us neglect the phenomenon of atmospheres in the
context of landscape architecture and urban design.

Another counterargument is based on an interpretation


of atmospheres exclusively as instruments of a liberal and
consumption-oriented form of usability thinking. I quote
Jürgen Hasse: “Sedative atmospheres of manipulation do not
appear in the social world as the atmospheres of weather do.
They are fabricated dissuasive media of communication that
constantly have to prove themselves over again, e.g. when
applied by individuals, collectives or institutions (those on
this side of the persuasiveness of arguments), in order to
exercise power. The systemic success of culture-industrial
arrangements is in particular owed to the manipulation
of moods through atmospheres.” 54 I can agree with some
54 Hasse, Jürgen: Zur Macht von parts of this description: there are atmospheres that are
Atmosphären – im Regieren der used for exerting power, and these should be criticised and
Stadt wie des eigenen Selbst. URL:
rejected for public urban open spaces. Fundamentally, how-
www.ibahamburg.de/fileadmin/
Erleben_2013/Kongresse/Stadt_Neu_ ever, landscape architecture can also create oppositional,
Bauen/SNB_Hasse.pdf (as consulted raw, sympathetic, motivational or stimulating atmospheres.
online on 15 August 2013). English In the design guideline presented here, the question about
translation of text published online
the character of the atmosphere to be developed is posed
in “Atmospheres as Expressions
of Medial Power – Understanding in an early phase of the design process or in the context of
Atmospheres in Urban Governance discursive criticism. Here, the ethical dimension of landscape
and under Self-Guidance” under: architectural design can be seen as a question of suitability,
https://riviste.unimi.it/index.
as a question about the inappropriateness or appropriate-
php/Lebenswelt/article/down-
load/4201/4303 (as consulted online ness of the atmosphere to be designed. Every design and
on 29 September 2017). every designer must find an answer to this question.

It should be shown that atmospheric spaces can be created


through the activity of design and can be experienced by (most)

38
people in this specially designed manner. It should also be shown
how it is possible to assess the atmospheric impact of open
spaces in a systematic manner. This also makes it possible to
discuss and evaluate qualitative phenomena in social discourse.

4 coNcLusioN
The author Hanns-Josef Ortheil describes an arrival in Zurich as
follows: “So … Zurich—yes, exactly. Suddenly I saw us arriving
in the main hall of the terminus station, with its high ceilings
and large arched windows. As always, you react immediately
to the impression that a building makes. You stop walking,
grab me by the arm and draw my attention to something.
Perhaps the blue. ‘What is it?’ you ask. Everywhere, this blue.
You look around. Half the station is immersed in this dark
shade of blue. I still don’t know why, but there’s something
French about it. Yes, it’s a French blue. The blue from the
French cigarette packs. A Gauloises or Boyards blue, isn’t it?
And look, the tram outside, the same blue. Perhaps it gushes
forth from the train station into the city, flowing through the
canals and streets. Come, let’s make haste. Perhaps Zurich
is the blue city, because this is what it looks like. I myself, of
course, had also noticed all of this, but only in passing. I do
not react to visual impressions as powerfully as she does.
In my case, the visual initially withdrew. Yes, in the begin-
ning, the exact and intense observation even stood in my
way because, in foreign cities, I would first let go and drift, in
order to find the music deep inside of me that corresponded
to the new impressions. This is why it was possible for me to
spend days wandering aimlessly through new places until
slowly something like music would come into existence. First
it was only atmospheres and sounds. But then everything
would take shape, and I would know, for example, that I now
badly wanted to hear or play certain pieces. In the case of 55 Ortheil, Hanns-Josef: Das Ver-
Zurich, it was initially preludes and fugues by Shostakovich.” 55 langen nach Liebe. Munich 2007,
pp. 26-27.

This literary description represents a challenge for urban


planners to use buildings and open spaces as a means for
taking into consideration the atmospheric dimension that
enables us to experience the “urban” in a sensual manner.

Translated by Leslie Ocker.

39
thE coNcEpt AND thE
pERcEptIoN of AtmosphEREs 1
Michael Hauskeller

„Gardens are for people.“ (Thomas Church)

Atmospheres are everywhere. Wherever we are, whatever 1 The following reflections are based
the space is like in which we find ourselves, whether we are on a far more detailed study that I
wrote many years ago. It was pub-
in a natural or in an artificial, human-made environment, we
lished in 1995 by Akademie Verlag
will always encounter some atmosphere or another. There Berlin under the title Atmosphären
are no atmosphere-free spaces, at least not for humans. erleben. Philosophische Untersuchun-
The atmospheric accompanies us wherever we go because gen zur Sinneswahrnehmung. Much
of what I can only hint at here and
it is not so much a quality of spaces, but rather an essential
what the brevity of the presentation
aspect of the way human beings relate to spaces, i.e., to may prevent from becoming fully
the world in which we find ourselves. It does not even mat- intelligible is explained and justified
ter whether those spaces are real or merely virtual. Even at length in that book.
spaces that are merely imagined or suggested by means of
images or words are constituted atmospherically. Figure 1
shows part of the campus of the University of Exeter in the
Southeast of England where I work. The image is used for
publicity purposes and is meant to induce a desire in young
Americans to study at Exeter. In the background we can see
a university building, and in front landscaped grounds. It is
summer. Relaxed and in no hurry, four young people with
books in their hands stroll along a path, talking to each other.
The atmosphere that is conveyed by the image and that we
automatically confer to the place that it shows us is very
welcoming. The image suggests that here at Exeter learning
is embedded in nature; it suggests an easy-going harmony,
and, indeed, the unity of work and play, learning and living.
This message is also underscored by the text that goes with
the image: “Exeter is an ideal location to live and study, pro- Fig. 1 Campus of the University of
viding opportunities for students to experience city life, the Exeter, UK. © University of Exeter
countryside and the beach.” Thus, the already open space
of the image is opened even wider, to include other, easily
accessible spaces promising further pleasures: the city, the
country, the sea and the beach. The words themselves evoke
a wide spectrum of pleasant associations, which not only

41
affect the way we experience the image, but also determine,
in conjunction with the image, the affective shading that
the word or rather the proper name “Exeter” will assume
for us, unless we already possess other information that
would conflict with this shading.
However, the atmospheres of images and texts are much
easier to manipulate than those of real spaces, because they
only ever present a small segment of reality to the perceiving
subject. This segment can deliberately be selected in such
a way that it conveys a particular atmosphere that noth-
ing in the object can interfere with. This is more difficult
to achieve with real spaces — spaces that we can actually
enter — , because real spaces are constantly changing, espe-
cially the ones that are outside. One and the same space can
have a very different effect in summer and in winter, when
it is raining and when the sun is shining, when there are
many people around and when there are only a few. That
creates problems for the landscape architect whose goal
it is to design not only spaces, but also atmospheres. The
photographer has it much easier.

the coNcept of atmospheres


But what exactly are atmospheres? It seems obvious that they
are not things. Atmospheres seem to belong to an ontological
category that is different from tables and chairs, mountains
and rivers. Their way of being is different. However, atmo-
spheres are similar to things in that we don’t find them in
ourselves, like an emotion or a thought, but to all appear-
ances in the world out there. We encounter atmospheres
or find ourselves in them. Or that is at least how it seems
to us. Yet atmospheres are not sensory qualities either, like
colours, sounds or smells, even though such qualities can
certainly contribute to the nature of an atmosphere. Nor
are they emotions, since we don’t encounter emotions in
space (at least not our own emotions). On the other hand,
atmospheres without any involvement of the emotions are
inconceivable. Atmospheres do not consist in purely cognitive
associations, even though these can be a contributing fac-
tor. Atmospheres are felt, or experienced. Experience must
here be understood as a mode of perception that necessarily
involves emotions. So what are atmospheres? I would define
them as both tempered and tempering spaces. Accordingly,

42
atmospheres are as numerous and manifold as the human
temper. There are as many atmospheres as there are ways
we can be tempered. There are cheerful and threatening
atmospheres (or spaces), ones that are comforting or discom-
forting, boring or exciting, beautiful or sublime, and count-
less others that are less clearly defined and therefore more
difficult to name, but that we can still feel. The Hungarian
writer Dezsö Kosztolányi once described the many possible
atmospheres of hotels (figure 2). His description beautifully
captures the concreteness of all atmospheres, the fact that
they are difficult to subsume under general categories and
inseparable from individual experience:
“There are familial hotels where we feel more at home than in Fig. 2 Bates Motel Set at Universal
our own den and where we are still independent, free from Studio Hollywood. © by Ipsingh,
Wikimedia Commons
the strict regime of the family. There are friendly, intimate,
pleasant hotels. There are sad hotels, especially in the coun-
tryside, that are like out-of-tune pianos and that plunge us
into misery with their blind mirrors and damp duvets. Then
there are hopeless, cursed, deadly hotels, where, on Novem-
ber evenings, it seems appropriate to voluntarily depart this
life. There are cheerful hotels where the water-taps giggle.
There are cold, solemn, silent hotels, chatty hotels, slutty
hotels, cocky hotels, boastful, brash, dingy hotels, trustwor- 2 I am translating from the German
thy, unhurried, stately hotels, plated with the noble rust edition: Deszö Kosztolányi, Das
vornehmste Hotel der Welt (The Most
of the past. There are easy-going hotels, ponderous hotels,
Distinguished Hotel in the World). In:
healthy hotels, where the sunshine springs even from the “Der kleptomanische Übersetzer und
waste pipes. And there are sick hotels where the table is limp- andere Geschichten (The Kleptoma-
ing, the chairs wobble and the wardrobe walks on crutches, niac Translator and Other Stories),”
Nördlingen 1988, p. 60.
where the divan suffers from consumption and the pillows
are dying. In short, there are all kinds of hotels.” 2

theories of atmospheres
We owe the first theoretical account to advance the under-
standing of atmospheres to the German psychiatrist Hubert
Tellenbach, who in 1968 published a book with the title
Geschmack und Atmosphäre 3 (Taste and Atmosphere), in which 3 Hubert Tellenbach, Geschmack und
he sought to develop a phenomenology of the oral senses, Atmosphäre, Salzburg 1968.
i.e. taste and smell, in order to help us better classify and
understand certain psychopathological disorders. According
to Tellenbach, what is specific about the oral senses is that
they function as the foundation of our trust in the world,
namely insofar as smell and taste to a significant extent co-

43
determine how strongly we feel at home and protected, or
alienated and exposed in a certain environment. Pleasant
and familiar smells make us feel connected to the world,
whereas unfamiliar and unpleasant smells make us feel lost,
not the least because these senses pay no heed to the usual
separation between subject and object. “When the sense of
smell and the sense of taste are active”, writes Tellenbach,
“the subject merges with the world as it presents itself to us
4 Tellenbach, p. 27. in smell and taste.” 4 Tellenbach understands this mergence
as a process of cognition through which part of the world’s
essence is revealed to the perceiving subject, namely insofar
as this essence concerns that subject. The smell and the
taste of the mother for instance is more than just a sense
5 Ibid, p. 47. impression. Rather, it contains the “core of motherliness” 5 ,
in the sense that for the child it embodies what the mother
means for it. This meaning embodied in the senses is, accord-
ing to Tellenbach, the atmospheric: “In almost every sense
experience there is a more that remains unexpressed. This
6 Ibid. more, which transcends the factual but which we can still
feel together with it, we can call the atmospheric.” 6
A very different approach to atmospheres is offered by the
German philosopher Hermann Schmitz who in his System der
7 Hermann Schmitz, System der Phi- Philosophie (System of Philosophy)7 attempts to explain emo-
losophie III/2: Der Gefühlsraum, Bonn tions as atmospheres. Schmitz maintains that the customary
1969. The whole system comprises
understanding of emotions as something that somehow
ten volumes and more than 5,000
pages. happens inside of us, as a mental process located in some
notional inner space, completely misses and obstructs the
true nature of emotions. Originally, emotions were under-
stood, quite rightly, as gripping powers in the presence of
which we are more or less helpless. It was only at the time of
classical Greece, around the 5th century BC, that emotions were
relocated to the inside in order to promote greater personal
independence and autonomy. This pragmatically justified
“introjection of emotions” is to be reversed, according to
Schmitz, because emotions are in fact “not more subjec-
8 Schmitz, p. 87. tive than country lanes, just less easy to localise.” 8 They are
not “in us”, but out there, in the world, “atmospherically
9 Ibid. effused in an indeterminate expanse of space.”9 To convince
his readers of this rather surprising claim, Schmitz discusses
a series of familiar and less familiar emotions, teasing out
their atmospheric properties. The emotion of joy for instance
is phenomenologically described as the falling away of all
obstructions, which then appears atmospherically as “field

44
of lightness”. This “field” is the emotion that we can now be
affected by, or not, depending on the circumstances and 10 See especially Gernot Böhme,
our own subjective constitution. This, our being affected, Atmosphäre. Essays zur neuen
Ästhetik, Frankfurt/M 1995, as well
is what we usually (but mistakenly) call emotion. In fact,
as Gernot Böhme, Architektur und
however, emotions are what we are affected by. Atmosphäre, München 2006.
After Schmitz, it was especially Gernot Böhme who, in vari-
ous publications, brought the concept of atmospheres to 11 Gernot Böhme, … wodurch die
bear. 10 In contrast to Schmitz, Böhme particularly emphasises Natur in ihren schönen Formen
figürlich zu uns spricht. In: Joachim
the connection between atmospheres and what he under-
Wilke (ed.), “Zum Naturbegriff der
stands as their source, namely things. For him, atmosphere Gegenwart”, Bd. 2, Stuttgart 1994,
is “something that things emanate and that we humans p. 18.
sense, that we get gripped by.” 11 However, no matter how we
want to understand the connection between the things that 12 Ibid.
occupy a space, the atmosphere of this space, and the one
who perceives it, the crucial point is what Böhme describes as 13 Gernot Böhme, Atmosphäre als
“co-presence” 12, which is the “shared reality of the perceiver Grundbegriff einer neuen Ästhetik,
Kunstforum 120, p. 247-255.
and the perceived” 13 that is realized in the atmosphere.

a more detaiLed accouNt of the atmospheric


The word ‘atmosphere’ can be traced back to the 17th century. It
originally referred to the circle of vapour that people believed
they could perceive around celestial bodies. In the second
half of the 18th century the word had already lost its associa-
tion with planets and now referred to the environment or
vicinity of an object, basically its sphere of influence. Things
were generally perceived as ecstatic, as standing outside of
themselves and radiating into the environment. “A thing”,
Rudolf zur Lippe once remarked, “is never entirely enclosed
within its bounds. It radiates, as the oven radiates warmth,
and ice coldness.” 14 Things shape their environment, and 14 Rudolf zur Lippe, Sinnesbewusst-
what these days we call atmosphere is actually the concrete sein, Reinbek 1987, p. 515.
experience of an appearing environment here and now. This
concrete experience is not a purely cognitive process, but an
immediate bodily affectedness with which the meaning of
the environment constitutes itself for us. Things and what
they mean to us coincide in this experience, and they do so
directly and not mediated by a mental construction. We do
not interpret something that has already been perceived.
Rather, the interpretation is already part of the perception,
which is always already embedded in emotional contexts
of meaning. All things that are present in our perceptual
space, and all sense qualities with which those things make

45
themselves known to us, affect our emotional condition
with their specific phenomenal character. The different
phenomenal characters of individual things, despite their
diversity, all combine to one single perceptual character,
as the many voices and instruments in a musical concert
combine to the performance of one single composition. This
perceptual character, composed of many single phenomenal
characters, is the atmosphere of a space.
However, atmospheres are also co-determined by the subject
of perception, in such a way that we cannot simply assume
that two different people finding themselves in the same
space do necessarily experience the same atmosphere.
Atmospheres occur in the ‘in between’. They describe the
concrete relation between a person and their environment.
Accordingly, the nature of the atmosphere that is felt depends,
from the subjective side, on (a) the general structure of the
organs of perception, (b) the general nature of the individual
perceiver (their genetic disposition, but also the experiences
that have made them what they are now), and finally (c) the
specific expectations and the knowledge that they bring into
the situation. Due to these subjective factors one and the
same environment can on occasion affect the same person
in very different ways. Goethe’s Werther for instance, just
after falling in love with Lotte, experiences external nature
as exhilaratingly beautiful. Later, however, when he real-
izes the hopelessness of his love, the same nature affects
15 Johann Wolfgang Goethe, The him very differently: “The full and ardent sentiment which
Sorrows of Young Werther, Book animated my heart with the love of nature, overwhelming
1, August 18th, translated by R.D.
me with a torrent of delight, and which brought all para-
Boylan
dise before me, has now become an insupportable torment,
a demon which perpetually pursues and harasses me. (…)
It is as if a curtain had been drawn from before my eyes,
and, instead of prospects of eternal life, the abyss of an ever
open grave yawned before me.” 15 The subjective conditions
have changed, and in consequence also the atmosphere of
the space. The knowledge that we carry into the perceptual
space can be equally significant. We will, for instance, look
at Van Gogh’s painting “Wheatfield with Crows” (figure 3)
with very different eyes (that is, it will affect us differently)
Fig. 3 Wheatfield with Crows, if we have been told that it was his last painting, painted
Vincent Van Gogh. © Wikimedia shortly before he committed suicide (whether this is in fact
Commons
true is irrelevant). Knowledge changes perception and hence
atmosphere. “If one has heard before”, writes Kant in his

46
Anthropology, “that this or that human being is evil, then one
believes that one can read malice in his face, and especially
when affect and passion appear on the scene, invention
mixes here with experience to form a single sensation.” 16 16 Immanuel Kant, Anthropology
This is how things go generally. from a Pragmatic Point of View,
edited and translated by Robert D.
However, even though the atmosphere of a space is, due
Louden, Cambridge 2006, p. 72.
to its partly being conditioned by the perceiver, subject to
certain imponderables and hence not completely control-
lable, people are sufficiently similar to justify the assumption
that there are quasi-objective phenomenal characters and
atmospheres determined by them. This is due to the fact that
our perception supervenes on largely identical biophysical
foundations, and that the significance an environment has
for us is also strongly shaped by those foundations. We do
not only perceive in the same way, but we are also in need
of the same things (food, light, etc.) and can be harmed and
even destroyed by the same things. That is why things and
the general character of the environment often affect and
temper us in the same way. The serenity of a landscape, for
instance, can therefore, despite being co-conditioned by our
own psychophysical constitution, in practice be regarded
as belonging to the object itself. The enormous practical
relevance of atmospheres is not diminished by the fact that
the subject contributes to its constitution, on the contrary.
Atmospheres are expressive of the relation that persists
between a perceiver and his or her environment. The world
then presents itself as an umwelt which one has to reckon
with. Atmospheric affectedness stems from the existential
dependency of the perceiving subject on their environment,
without which we could not even understand the world. It
is precisely because things concern us, because we cannot
be indifferent to them, that we have to understand them.
Understanding is, therefore, conditional on the significance
of that which is to be understood.
The perceptual character of an environment assumes sig-
nificance as an emotion. Its basic forms are pleasurable
affirmation on the one hand, and displeasurable negation
on the other. One can say that, roughly, the attractive con-
trasts with the repulsive, the enticing with the terrifying,
coupled with, respectively, sociofugal and sociopetal tenden-
cies of movement. The emotion with which we react to the
environment can be more or less pronounced, depending
on the intensity of the (dominant) phenomenal characters

47
determining the space in question. The more intense the
dominant phenomenal characters are, the more sense modali-
ties (seeing, hearing, smelling) take part in the constitution
of the atmosphere, and the greater the conformity is of the
phenomenal characters in these different modalities, the
more concentrated is the emerging atmosphere. The differ-
ent senses are despite their differences comparable with
respect to the phenomenal characters they manifest. The
same phenomenal character can be present in different
senses. We can thus speak of a transmodal unity of phe-
nomenal characters. Take for example the phenomenal
17 David und Rosa Katz (eds.), character of lightness. As David Katz once remarked,17 there
Handbuch der Psychologie, Basel/ are “light and dark notes, temperatures, tastes, and smells.
Stuttgart 1960, p. 132.
High notes are light, deep ones dark, cold is light, warmth
dark. Cane sugar tastes light, magnesium sulphate dark.”
Due to this sameness of phenomenal characters we natu-
rally associate, for instance, high notes with light colours.
And what lightness tends to do, as a character that affects
our emotive condition, is that it opens up the world. It cre-
ates space. However, in practice we need to remember that
the phenomenal characters of an environment impact on
each other, that they can reinforce, abate, and change each
other. A grey patch of colour, for instance, appears lighter
against a dark background than the same grey against a light
background. Light-coloured objects also appear lighter (i.e.
less heavy) than dark ones. How a sense quality affects an
observer depends, therefore, always on the whole context.
It is this context that ultimately determines the different
phenomenal characters.

seNse modaLities
Although the different phenomenal characters transcend the
boundaries of the senses, there are still important differences
between the senses. The sense of smell, for instance, is par-
ticularly important for our experience of reality. Emotional
involvement, our connection to the world and other people,
our feeling that things concern us; all this depends to a large
extent on our sense of smell. Smelling our environment, we
experience it as familiar or unfamiliar, homelike or alien.
In contrast, through the sense of hearing we become con-
scious of things that can endanger our bodily existence. In
the first instance, every sound tells of a potential threat.

48
It alerts us to the presence of a thing that is free to move,
which we learn, as our familiarity with it grows, to appraise
as harmless or harmful, attractive or repulsive, etc. Accord-
ingly, the voice of another human also voices for us their
(friendly or hostile) nature. When we hear something we
know that something is going on. Yet also if we no longer
hear anything where we heard something previously, we
know that something has happened. Silence can function
as a sound, as, conversely, noise can function as silence,
namely as something that we ignore and are hardly aware
of anymore because it has become normal. There are many
kinds of silence, many ways in which we can be affected
by silence. Büchner’s Lenz talks about the terrible “voice
that screams around the whole horizon and that we usu- 18 Georg Büchner, Werke und Briefe,
ally call silence.” 18 The context is, as always, critical. Part Munich 1980, p. 88.
of this context is of course also the perceiver’s horizon of
expectations, which is always present, in one way or another.
Perception itself has in fact a question structure. We never
simply perceive, but we always do so expectantly, fearfully,
hopefully, and so on. Otherwise something like surprise or
fright would not be possible. Accordingly we can say that, as
the great neurophenomenologist Erwin Straus once put it:
“All sense impressions are answers to questions.” 19 Sounds 19 Erwin Straus, Vom Sinn der Sinne,
can of course also be more or less familiar to us and be in Berlin / Göttingen / Heidelberg 1956,
p. 111.
different ways embedded in our experience. For this reason,
some sounds have a particular significance, as for instance
the voice of the mother for the baby and the rhythm of the
human breathing and heartbeat, which is imitated in many
songs and can also be found in the steady movement of
breaking waves and which can bring about a sense of safety
and security. Following Charles Osgood’s well-known analysis
of emotional states, the psychologist Suitbert Ertl has clas-
sified sounds along three dimensions: valence (good-bad,
pleasant-unpleasant), potency (strength, size, hardness), and
arousal (movement, activity, agitation).20 Sounds thus func- 20 Suitbert Ertl, Psychophonetik.
tion essentially as suggestive fields for possible feelings, Untersuchungen über Lautsymbolik
und Motivation, Göttingen 1969.
similarly to how Ernst Jünger once described it: „Love, hate,
rage, terror, sex, the triumph of victory, the lamentations
of defeat, the feeling of great elation — they all have their
sounds, which we know how to use naturally from birth.” 21 21 Ernst Jünger, Geheimnisse der
The same could be said about colours, which come to us Sprache, Hamburg 1947, p. 17.
through the sense of sight. Colours are relevant for meaning:
they change the character of things. In the colour white we

49
also see the light, lightness, the day. For this reason, it often
symbolises everything good, divine love and grace, life and
22 Wassily Kandinsky, Über das Geis- mobility, harmony and joy. In contrast, in the colour black
tige in der Kunst, Bern 1952, p. 99. we also see darkness and the night: it therefore represents
everything unpleasant, the severity of the divine, death and
23 Kandinsky, p. 95. torpidity, malice, insecurity and doubt. One can say that,
generally, light colours lighten and widen the space, whereas
dark colours constrict it. However, white and black also have
something in common, which is their emptiness. That is
why the colour white can also sometimes appear hostile
and desolate, and represent nothingness. Red on the other
hand is the colour par excellence, that which is opposed to
the colourless. Red is hot rather than warm, arousing, a “roar
and blaze,” as Kandinsky says,22 movement, life, excitement.
Yellow is life-giving warmth; blue coolness, distance and
contemplative calm. Green, finally, is the deep tranquillity
of complete content. “The colour green”, writes Kandinsky,
“is like a fat, very healthy cow, lying quietly, capable only of
rumination, looking at the world with stupid, dull eyes.” 23 If
and to what extent those basic characters of colours affect
the perceptual character of an environment also depends
on various other factors. Not only are certain colours con-
nected to certain things that co-determine their perception
(for instance yellow as the colour of the state mail service
in Germany), the size and shape of the colour patch are also
relevant. Conversely, colour affects our perception of size and
Figs. 4, 5 total impression and phe- weight: dark objects appear smaller and heavier, precisely
nomenal characters. © Stefano Grau, because we experience dark colours generally as “heavy” and
Fotolia.com (above), © kotomiti,
“oppressive”, whereas light colours are experienced as “light”
Fotolia.com (below)
and “supportive”. The other space-defining sense data also
play a part. Visible shapes contribute to the total impression.
24 Compare Willy Hellpach’s classic Some shapes are more powerful, dynamic and/or pleasant
and still readable study Geopsyche. than others, and the various features of a landscape differ in
Die Menschenseele unterm Einfluss
the way they affect us: the flat differs from the mountainous,
von Wetter, Klima, Boden und Land-
schaft (1911), 5th edition Leipzig 1939. the uniform from the varied, the tranquil from the busy. 24
There are lighter and heavier shapes whose lightness and
heaviness is entirely independent of their actual weight.
25 Friedrich Schiller, Kallias oder “The mass of a horse”, Friedrich Schiller once noted, “is, as
Über die Schönheit, in Friedrich Schil- everyone knows, of incomparably greater weight than the
ler, Sämtliche Werke, vol. 5, Munich
mass of a duck or a crab. In spite of this, the duck is heavy
1984, p. 413.
and the horse is light.” 25 (figure 4 and 5) What Schiller is
talking about is the phenomenal character of those shapes.
Also relevant for the atmosphere of a space is the shape of

50
the space itself, its smallness or extensiveness, depth and
height, boundedness or openness.
Lastly, the sense of touch is atmospherically relevant because
it assures us of an objective reality. Tactile communication
is the first language that we use. However, touch mostly
contributes to the atmosphere of a space through its antici-
pation, as expected or ‘seen’ smoothness and roughness,
warmth and cold, as sharpness or bluntness, roundness and
squareness, hardness and softness. A marble floor affects us
differently from a wooden floor or a carpet. All sense data
are forms of congression.

LessoNs for LaNdscape architecture


There are numerous different theoretical approaches to land-
scape architecture. There is no need to understand it as an
art of atmospheres. This is only one option among others.
However, we should always keep in mind that landscapes
are populated by human beings: they are spaces for living
and therefore also spaces of affective perception. For this
reason, the atmospheres to whose creation a space con-
tributes should at least be considered. There is no general
answer to the question which atmospheres the landscape
architect who understands herself as an atmospheric artist
should attempt to create. It all depends on what purposes
the space in question is supposed to serve. Once the pur-
pose is agreed, one can start identifying relevant (if possible,
transindividually invariable) phenomenal characters in the
different sense modalities and finding suitable perceptual
markers to fix them to. These should then be employed in
such a way that they create an atmosphere that is as con-
centrated as possible.
The landscape architect qua atmospheric artist should, if
possible, take into account all the senses. She needs to pay
attention not only to how the spaces she designs look, but
also to how they smell, sound and feel to the touch. None
of the senses is irrelevant for the emerging atmosphere.
However, it is not just the sense impressions that determine
the atmosphere of a space, but also what we know about
them. To know what happened at a place can be crucial
for the way we are affected by it, to such an extent that the
atmospheric effect of the sense impressions is determined
by that knowledge. In that sense, our perception is always

51
shaped by the past that is present in our minds, so that we
need to carefully consider its effect, especially when we are
dealing with historically significant or in other ways histori-
cally relevant places.
Generally we can say that the sense impressions that a space
offers never stand alone by themselves: they are always
already being interpreted in such and such a way and thus
changed in their significance. One example: the campus
of the University of Exeter has recently been redesigned.
Among the things created is also a modern piazza (figure
6), which serves as a public meeting place, inviting people
to sit down on its benches and steps, eat their lunch, and
Fig. 6 Piazza of the new Forum. chat with friends and colleagues. Trees were planted that
© University of Exeter one day will provide shade, and that now, to pre-empt a
rather hesitant nature, conceal microphones that provide
the visitor with relaxing birdsong—no doubt in the attempt
to make that place’s atmosphere even more pleasant and
inviting. There is just one problem: the song of birds that we
know are not really there, even though it may sound genuine
enough and actually be acoustically indistinguishable from
the song of birds that are actually present, affects us dif-
ferently from when we know or believe that what we hear
are birds that are actually there rather than merely their
technically mediated acoustic representation. As soon as we
realize the deception, we feel that space differently, and the
whole atmosphere can suddenly change. This was already
noticed by Kant in his exploration of the beautiful and our
interest in it: “The song of birds proclaims gladsomeness
and contentment with existence. (…) But the interest which
we here take in beauty has only to do with the beauty of
Nature; it vanishes altogether as soon as we notice that (…)
it is only Art (…). What is more highly praised by poets than
the bewitching and beautiful note of the nightingale (…)?
And yet we have instances of a merry host, where no such
songster was to be found, deceiving to their great content-
ment the guests who were staying with him to enjoy the
26 Immanuel Kant, Critique of country air, by hiding in a bush a mischievous boy who knew
Judgement, Part 1, § 42: On the Intel- how to produce this sound exactly like nature (by means of
lectual Interest in the Beautiful,
a reed or a tube in his mouth). But as soon as we are aware
translated by J.H. Bernard, London:
Macmillan 1914. that it is a cheat, no one will remain long listening to the
song which before was counted so charming. And it is just
the same with the songs of all other birds.” 26

52
There are some other problems that also make the atmo-
spheric design of spaces challenging. As mentioned before, we
need to take into account the changeability of space (through
changing seasons, the people who live in it, varying activi-
ties). In addition, we need to consider the temporal structure
of the perceiving subject. We do not only differ from each
other; we also change all the time, and when we change,
then the atmosphere that we perceive can also change. “We
could now already see the hotel”, Proust writes, “its lights
that shone with such hostility when we arrived here on the
first evening and that now had something sheltering, gentle, 27 Marcel Proust, Remembrance of
homecoming-announcing.”27 Finally, we must not forget the Things Past, Vol. 1. Cited after the
German edition: Auf der Suche nach
general context-dependency of an environment’s perceptual
der verlorenen Zeit, Frankfurt/M.
character. Atmospheres are indeed wherever we go, but it 1976, p. 951.
is not always easy to deliberately create them.

Translated by author.

53
mEtRopolItAN lyRIc poEtRy
fRom A DIffERENt pERspEctIvE:
uRBAN AtmosphEREs IN poEtRy
fRom kästNER to hARtuNG
Burkhard Meyer-sickendiek

If, as a literary and cultural critic, one considers the ques-


tion of how atmospheres can be designed, then one has to
examine media different from those used by a landscape 1 Carus, Carl Gustav: Nine Letters
architect. Instead, one focuses on works of art and deploys on Landscape Painting, trans. David
Britt. Los Angeles: Getty Research
an analytical category that is related to the concept of an
Institute 2002, p. 91
atmosphere without being identical to it: the category of
aesthetic mood, or attunement (Stimmung). In the history of 2 Riegl, Alois: Die Stimmung als
art theory, specifically aesthetics, moods have often been con- Inhalt der modernen Kunst, Gesam-
melte Aufsätze. Vienna 1986, p. 28.
ceived of as atmospheres, or atmospherically induced percep-
tions. In principle, this superimposition begins already with
Romanticism, or more specifically, with romantic landscape
painting: the primary task of landscape painting, according 3 Altogether the introduction
to Carl Gustav Carus being “the representation of a certain to Riegl’s essay reads as follows:
“On an isolated alpine peak I have
mood of mental life (meaning) through the reproduction of
come to rest. The earth sinks down
a corresponding mood of natural life (truth).” 1 steeply below my feet, so that no
This understanding of mood as an “emotionally-laden” thing before me remains within my
experience of landscapes and nature in general was fur- immediate grasp and nothing can
stimulate my sense of touch. All sen-
ther developed in art history by Alois Riegel, who conceived
sory perception is left to my eyes and
of moods in terms of an aesthetically designed landscapes what an abundant multiplicity does
while drawing a categorical distinction between landscape- it discern…. At the edge of a woods,
and mood painting. Mood painting transformed individual cows are grazing; I know well that
they never hold still, but now they
natural appearances into a moment within a larger harmonic
are just tiny white dots, that register
whole, a quality Riegl examined in the late work of Jacob their existence. If I raise my eyes to
von Ruisdael. Riegl described the “intuition of an order and the opposite cliff wall, they encoun-
lawfulness over the chaos, the harmony over the dissonance, ter above all a waterfall spraying
the calm over the movement” as “mood”: “Its elements are downward over walls the height of
houses. Just a short while ago while
calm and a distant view point.” 2 When, in his essay Mood I was in its vicinity, I saw and heard
as a the Content of Modern Art Riegl elaborated upon this that no sound can overcome its thun-
mood-inducing interplay of calm and a detached viewpoint der. I felt a quiet reverence before
by noting that “ what appears as a merciless battle from up its gigantic force then, but now it
appears just as a modest silver band
close looks like peaceful co-existence, concord, harmony from
amidst the dark, jagged precipice…
a distance,” he is clearly describing a process of distanciation. 3

55
To the extent that I can now survey These questions are treated differently in Theodor Lipp’s
the whole — everywhere restless
Ästhetik, whose first volume appeared in 1903 and the sec-
life shows itself, endless energy and
non-stop movements, thousands ond in 1906. Lipps conceived of moods as that which “I find
of comings and goings, and yet a in objects of aesthetic contemplation.” According to Lipps,
unifying calm pours over it all, out of aesthetic contemplation generated so called mood feelings,
which not a single dissonant impulse
which always had a double meaning: “the mood that for
breaks forth--, thus awakes in me an
unspeakable feeling of soulfulness, me lies in a landscape and the mood feeling arising when
calm, harmony.” ibid, p. 27. faced with such a mood landscape.”4 In the second half of his
Ästhetik, he defines this one particular mood that inhabits a
space as the so-called “spatial spirit,” (Raumseele) which is
4 Lipps, Theodor: Grundlegung der present in the specific mood of a space. It does not adhere
Ästhetik, vol. 1. Hamburg 1914, p. 222. to the individual visible forms, but rather is invoked through
the “endlessly polymorphic, inexpressible interweaving of
forces within the space.” “The mood that lives within a space”
is determined by the object, but not through its forms, but
instead “ through the width, how the objects stand together
in the space, how they maintain an inner dialogue with
5 Lipps, Theodor: Ästhetik. Psy- themselves, along with the air and the light, in any case with
chologie des Schönen und der Kunst II. the space or through it.”5 Following in Lipps’ footsteps, his
Hamburg and Leipzig 1906, p. 188.
“student” Moritz Geiger coined the term, “mood empathy.”
By which he meant, a form of experience that emerges “when
we refer to a landscape — whether it is a representation of
6 Geiger, Moritz: Zum Problem in nature — as melancholic or delightful” in other words as
der Stimmungseinfühlung, Theorie a form of empathy (Einfühlung).6 The definition of Otto F.
und Geschichte der Literatur und
Bollnow has a similar focus in that it distinguishes mood
der schönen Künste. Munich 1976,
p. 18-59, here p. 20. from intentional feelings relating to specific material objects:
all happiness is happiness about something, moods on the
other hand have no particular object, rather they are states
of human existence that are rather diffusely related to that
which lies beyond themselves. Bollnow gives a more exact
7 Bollnow, Otto, Das Wesen der definition in The Nature of Moods (Das Wesen der Stimmungen):
Stimmungen. Frankfurt 1956, p. 24ff. Within the mood, the world has not yet become an object as
it does in later forms of consciousness, above all in sensing
8 Binswanger, Ludwig, Das Raum- (Erkennen), instead moods exist still within that undifferenti-
problem in der Psychopathologie, ated unity of self and world, both of which are pervaded by
Ausgewählte Vorträge und Aufsätze,
a shared mood tone…. The mood is not something added
vol. 2, Zur Problematik der psychia-
trischen Forschung und zum Problem onto the isolated inner life of a person, rather the person
der Psychiatrie. Bern 1955, p. 195ff. is incorporated within the whole of a landscape, which in
turn is not some free-standing existing thing, but rather
already has a distinctive connection back to the person.7
9 Lipps, Theodor: Ästhetik: Pys- Then in 1955 Ludwig Binswanger developed the category
chologie des Schönen und der Kunst. of the “attuned space,” 8 which reached back to integrate
Leipzig: Voss 1906, p. 196ff.
aspects of Lipps’ “spatial spirit” 9 as it also followed up on

56
Martin Heidegger’s concept of mood. Binswanger’s catego-
ry also recalled Hermann Schmitz who formulated mood
as the foundational principle of his theory of “emotional
space.” Emotions, Schmitz stated, were basically “spatially
cast atmospheres,” whereby he was describing the mood
empathy theorized by Lipps and Geiger in relation to Merleau-
Ponty’s philosophical body as the “corporeally perceptible 10 Schmitz, Hermann: System der
entry into” such atmospheres.10 Schmitz refers to such atmo- Philosophie vol. 3, part 2, Der Gefühls-
raum. Bonn 1969, p. 369.
spheres as “half things.” 11 Examples include light, warmth,
wind, fresh air, the wrenching weightiness of falling and 11 On the concept of half things,
silence, phenomena, in other words, that are not continu- see Hermann Schmitz: System der
Philosophie vol. 3, Der Raum, part 5,
ously perceptible, in contrast to things, because they have
Die Wahrnehmung. Bonn 1989, sec-
an interruptible duration. Following Schmitz, Gernot Böhme tion p. 245.
speaks then about “atmospheres” such as the “stuffiness”
of an unfamiliar apartment, the “infinite stillness” of a sun-
soaked church plaza, the “crypt-like coolness” of a cellar, the
“ocean’s vastness”, and the “forest’s density,” but also the
chilly atmosphere of a reception, the cultural atmosphere
of the 1920s, the distinctive atmosphere of poverty, and the
tense atmosphere arising from social conflict. These kinds
of atmospheres are experienced through a procedure that 12 Schmitz, Hermann: Der uner-
Böhme — hanneling Schmitz’ notion of “the body’s own schöpfliche Gegenstand. Grundzüge
der Philosophie. Bonn 2007, p. 115ff.
feeling” 12 — characterizes as “ingression”: an ingression
involves “being drawn into” an atmospheric mood, that is
always accompanied with the experience of “discrepancy”
as a digression from one’s own state of attunement.

I would describe an experience of ingression in terms of


those perceptions in which one perceives something by being
drawn into it. A typical example would be entering into a
room in which a certain atmosphere dominates. Another
example: I walk into a hall in which there is a celebration
or I approach a group of people having a conversation and
out of either one a certain atmosphere hits me. Here we
see that the atmosphere is something distinctly separate 13 Böhme, Gernot, Aisthetik. Vor-
from me. It has an emotional character admittedly, which lesungen über Ästhetik als allgemeine
Wahrnehmungslehre , p. 46ff.
however is not yet my own but which appears to me in a
certain manner. 13

57
agaiNst “iNwardNess”: LyricaL moods
as aN experieNce of aN “outside”
The insights about the atmospheric character of moods, as they
were developed and differentiated in Theodor Lipps’ aesthetic
by his student, Moritz Geiger, as well as by Bollnow, Hermann
Schmitz, and, ultimately, Gernot Böhme have to this day not
received a fruitful reception within theories of lyric poetry.
This has to do with the enormous weight of Hegel’s Aesthetik,
which already in the 1830s formulated a decisive verdict about
lyric poetry that depicts moods. Within Hegel’s theory of lyrical
poetry, it is the inner mood that constitutes the “distinctive
14 Hegel, Georg W. F.: Vorlesungen lyrical unity.” 14 Hegel identifies mood also as the expression of
über die Aesthetik 3 in Werke, ed. an interiority: the “primary concern” of lyrical texts is “percep-
Eva Moldenhauer and Karl Markus
tion and feelings of the subject, the joyous and the lament-
Michel. Frankfurt 1970, vol. 15, p. 421.
ing, courageous, or depressed moods, that resonate through
the whole” poem. 15 All the same, this equation of mood and
15 Ibid, p. 422. interiority is obviously polemical, for he expressly mocks “the
entirely empty tra-la-la, the singing and warbling just for the
sake of singing as an authentic lyrical fulfillment of the soul,
which turns words into more or less irrelevant vehicles for the
16 Ibid, p. 421. expression of cheerfulness and suffering.” 16
The rehabilitation of mood poetry, as Max Kommerell and Emil
Staiger, above all others, undertook in the 1920s, is, appropriately
enough, a critical one. Emil Staiger responded to Hegel’s theory
of lyrical poetry by replacing Hegel’s concepts of “subject” and
“object” with a new understanding, because Staiger saw the
lyrical condition as the total oneness of self and the world, of
inside and outside, in which the two components are ultimately
17 Staiger, Emil: Grundbegriffe der indistinguishable. In order to explain the emergence of this
Poetik. Zürich 1946, p. 62. interpenetration, Staiger combined the concepts of “mood” and
“memory”: “Remembrance is the name for the lack of distance
18 Staiger, Emil: Basic Concepts of between subject and object, for the lyrical interpenetration.”17
Poetics, trans. Janette C. Hudson & This so-called “lyrical style” stands in contrast to the “epic style”
Luanne T. Frank. University Park, PA:
which Staiger defines in the Basic Concepts as “presentation,”
Pennsylvania State University Press,
1991, p. 82-83. just as he refers to the “dramatic style” in terms of “tension.”
When he describes the lyric poem as “the spontaneous expres-
19 Ibid, p. 89ff. sion of mood,” then this spontaneity expresses itself as the
union between meaning and the music of words: a thesis
20 Staiger, Emil: Basic Concepts of that is also oriented towards Hoffmannsthal’s Conversations
Poetics, trans. Janette C. Hudson & about Poems. 18 Just as with Hoffmannsthal, lyrical “mood” is
Luanne T. Frank. University Park, PA:
characterized as a correspondence and congruence of “soul”
Pennsylvania State University Press,
1991, p. 81. and “landscape,”19 which is why “we do not stand opposite
objects, but rather we are in them and they are in us.” 20 How

58
different this is from the Hegelian understanding is made clear
by Staiger’s thesis that the “I” is “not a ‘moi’ that consciously
maintains its identity, but a ‘je.’” In other words:
It would be just as correct and as false to say that it sinks into
the outer world. For in the lyric, ‘I’ is not a ‘moi’ that consciously
maintains its identity, but a ‘je’ that does not maintain itself,
but dissolves in every moment of existence. We have now
come to the place where we must explain the fundamental
term “Stimmung.” “Stimmung” does not refer to the pres-
ence of an inner state. “Stimmung” understood as inner state
implies that it has already been grasped rationally and has been
contrived as the object of observation. Originally, however a
“Stimmung” is definitely not anything that exists “in” us. On
the contrary, when “Stimmung” affects us, it is we who are
“outside” in a very special sense; we do not stand opposite 21 Ibid. The English translation
objects, but rather we are in them, and they are in us. 21 makes a point of retaining the word
“Stimmung” in this passage rather
Kommerell saw this important point differently in his 1943
than translating it as “mood.”
Gedanken über Gedichte. For Kommerell the “lyrical mood” of
a poem is always related to three things: to itself, to the poet,
and to whomever reads or hears the poem. 22 This important 22 Kommerell, Max: Gedanken über
aspect of reception aesthetics is missing in Staiger’s Basic Gedichte. Frankfurt 1985, p. 21.
Concepts. According to Kommerell, on the other hand, mood
unfolds first in the aesthetic experience, that is to say, in
the realization of a poem’s beauty, and in harmony with
the three moments: poet, poem, and reader.

The mood of a poem is also very much a composition. Within


the lyrical poem’s mood, the poet had the mood, the poem is
the mood, and the reader receives the mood. This helps explain
what is meant when one says that a poem is beautiful. It is the
mood of the poem. The poem is beautiful means that there
is nothing in the poem that does not completely contribute
to this mood. It does not mean simply that it holds the poet;
the poem also holds the reader. For this to occur, it is not nec-
essary that the poet embodies humanity in general or that
the reader is similar to the poet. Rather through its mood the 23 Ibid, p. 25.
poem has the power to draw anyone in who apprehends it.23

atmospheric moods iN Lyric poetry:


expressioN or abstractioN?

It is not completely clear today how Max Kommerell’s for-


mula — within the lyrical mood, the poet had the mood, the

59
poem is the mood, and the reader receives the mood — is to
be understood. In trying to understand the mood, are we
dealing with a phenomenon that remains identical with itself
during the course of its transformation from the poet via the
poem on to the reader? Or does it involve a transformation in
the sense of a reworking of the mood in which the poet was
held by the mood and the reader received the mood after
reading the poem? In order to clarify this extremely difficult
question, we can turn to probably the most well-known mood
poem in German literature, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s
famous poem “Wanderers Nachtlied” (The Wander’s Night
Song), also known by the title “Ein Gleiches” (Another One).
It was composed in 1780 as follows:

Über allen Gipfeln


24 Goethe, J.W.: Wanderers Ist Ruh
Nachtlied, Gedichte und Epen, Erich In allen Wipfeln
Trunz, ed., vol. 1, Hamburger Edition.
Spürest du
Munich 1981, p. 142
Kaum einen Hauch;
Die Vögelein schweigen im Walde.
Warte nur, balde
Ruhest du auch.24

O'er all the hill-tops


Is quiet now,
25 Warne, Frederick and Co. The In all the tree-tops
Poetical Works of Henry Wadsworth Hearest thou
Longfellow. London 1882, p. 595.
Hardly a breath;
The birds are asleep in the trees:
Wait; soon like these
Thou too shalt rest.25

The poem was written on the evening of September 6, 1780


on the wooden wall of a hunting cabin on the Kickelhahn
mountain near Ilmenau. It is striking that in order to describe
the calm it recounts, the poem relies on the semantic field
around “spüren” (to feel, sense, perceive). The lyrical “you”
feels “hardly a breath” above the tree-tops. The poem seems
to relate the kind of experience that one could describe in
Hermann Schmitz’s terms as a “bodily feeling,” as the pro-
cedure of an ingression into the scene’s atmospheric calm.
Just how important this bodily feeling is for the poem is
made clear by Emil Staiger comment: “Let the reader who

60
can bear to do so replace ‘spürest’ with ‘merkest.’” 26 One
would certainly have to agree: such a renunciation of the 26 Staiger, Basic Concepts, p. 46.
word “spüren” would be a flagrant break in the poem’s style,
in which the well-known contentlessness of these lines that 27 Adorno, Theodor: Noten zur
Adorno described would undoubtedly disappear. 27 Literatur. Frankfurt 1981, p. 53.
Goethe is not trying to perceive the eternal presence of God
in the natural world he created, but more likely the intermit-
tent experience of a momentary calm that caught hold, first,
of the 31-year old poet, and, then again, of the 64-year old
Goethe as he inscribed it for publication in 1813. The poem
thus describes a rather fleeting and therefore surprising
perceptual signal, an obviously rare experience: calm. This
theme in Goethe’s poem could be used as an example of the
kind of “half-thing” that Hermann Schmitz’s New Phenom- 28 On the concept of the half-thing,
enology has described. 28 Among half-things, there is light, see Schmitz, Hermann: Der uner-
schöpfliche Gegenstand. Grundzüge
warmth, the wind, fresh air, the wrenching weightiness of
der Philosophie. Bonn 1990, p. 216ff.
falling and silence, phenomena, in other words, that are not
continuously perceptible, in contrast to things, because they
have an interruptible duration. Following in the footsteps
of New Phenomenology, Gernot Böhme places the concept 29 Böhme, Gernot: Atmosphäre.
of “atmospheres” at the center of his New Aesthetics. 29 This Essays zur Neuen Ästhetik. Frankfurt
1995.
poem relatively clearly relates the process of ingression in the
sense that Hermann Schmitz and Gernot Böhme describe.
The natural sound of calm takes hold of the recipient, so that
we can recognize how this calm ingresses from a distance
into close proximity, from the eternal into one’s own inner
state. The important question then is whether this poem
is an expression of a personal experience: the calm mood
described here is that of the poet, as well as the poem, and
therefore the reader as well? If the poem were the immedi-
ate expression of a personal experience, then it could have
easily been written differently, like this for example:

Wow, it really is quiet here around me


These mountains, this forest!
Even the birds are hardly making a sound!
Very nice
Finally have can have a calm moment!

If Goethe’s poem had been written in this manner, then that


which Kommerell claims all mood poems possess would not
hold true, namely that the reader is drawn into the poet’s
mood by the poem’s mood. The lines cited above could easily

61
have drawn the following response from the reader: “Sounds
nice for you.” In the case of an actual “equation” this would be
completely different, for the reader would be drawn into the
mood, or atmosphere, the poem describes. Goethe’s poem
delivers a fleeting and completely surprising impression in
lyric form, that has nothing in common with the act of put-
ting a feeling into words, because the poem does not remain
a private experience.

the abductioN of bodiLy experieNces


iN rhythmic LaNguage

Goethe’s poem transforms an undoubtedly biographical


situation into an aesthetic artifact. This has to do not only
to form-giving processes, but also with logical ones, whose
goal ultimately is to transpose a singular experience into a
general aesthetic form, one that is divisible in Kommerell’s
sense. In other words, the poem allows itself to be divided
up into individual sequences of thought that are more than
the expression of an experience. In order to clarify the sup-
posed original experience, it provides in fact a very complex
hypothesis that can be paraphrased so: given that the acoustic
silence is perceived so intensively as calmness, this silence
and the noticeably quiet wafting of the wind — “hardly a
breadth” — seem to signify more than an acoustic event.
This silence, after all, creates a sense of coming to rest that
has less to do with the absence of sound than with inward
peace. Thus in the end, the poem does not present the expres-
sion of an experience but rather a “clarifying hypothesis”
in the sense used by Charles Sander Peirce. These steps can
be summarized in the following syllogism:

A) All things in this place are quiet


B) I can sense that I am feeling calm
C) You, too, imaginary reader would feel calm in this place.

Accordingly, the overall effect of the quiet is initially surpris-


ing, yet it looses this aspect in light of this hypothesis, accord-
ing to which all branches of life, in the platonic sense—from
minerals to plants and animals to people — fall under this
calm. A logical operation of this variety is called an abduc-
tion and is distinct from a deduction or induction. Charles
Sander Peirce defines an abduction in the following manner:

62
The surprising fact C is observed; however if A were true,
then C would be self-evident; as a result, there are grounds
for surmising that A is true. 30
If there were a rule or a general law, that would underlie the 30 Peirce, Charles S.: Vorlesungen
surprising fact or experience, then this experience or fact would über Pragmatismus. Hamburg 1991,
p. 129.
not really be surprising. One could then deduct the observed
fact from an already existing rule and one would not need to
carry out the abduction operation sketched out above. Fol-
lowing the authentic surprise, there follows in the abduction
an as-if assumption: If there is a rule A, then the surprising
event would have lost its surprising character. If we transfer
this basic model of logical reasoning onto the lyric poem, then
all we need to do is replace the principle of the “rule” with the
lyrical principle of the lyrical form of speech. The surprising
perception is thereby transformed by the abduction opera-
tion into a general form, which in the case of logic appears a
“new rule A,” while in the case of lyric poetry, it appears as a
new linguistic formulation. Both the new rule A in the case
of logic and the lyrical linguistic formulation in the case of
poetry still need to be found or constructed. Neither one is
known at the moment of perceiving the surprising event. The
event itself would ultimately not be surprising, if the logical
rule of the linguistic expression had already been known.
To what extent does Goethe’s poem correspond to the lyrical
form of a surprising discovery of coming to peace? The answer
is: the internal motif of expecting calm manifests itself in the
rhythmic formulation, that can be recognized in the addi-
tion “e” sound in the words “Spürest,” “Vögelein,” “Walde,”
“balde” and “ruhest.” The effect of this easily recognized
supplement becomes clear if one reads the poem without
the inclusion of these “e” sound. Suddenly we are confronted
with a dactylic rhythm, XxxXxxX—XxxXxxX—XxxX, in other
words Úber den Wipfeln ist Rúh, Ín allen Gipfeln spürst dú,
káum einen Háuch, and so forth. Already the “e” sound in 31 “In the second Night Song (Über
“spürest” creates an almost disruptive delay in the dactylic allen Gipfeln ist Ruh), the unrepeat-
able mood shares in the unrepeat-
meter, which leads us to share Emil Staiger’s judgment that
able fluctuations, so that all metrical
“the poem … diverges all metrical rules.” 31 rules are evaded.” Staiger, Emil:
This divergence is justified primarily by the attempt to under- Goethe vol. 1. Zürich 1956, p. 331.
score or strengthen the textual experience of calm by using
the striking systematic supplement of the “e” sound to create
the effect of delay or slowing down. Even the enjambment
between the fourth and fifth verse produces a reflective pause
that interrupts the sentence’s flow and reinforces the delay-

63
ing moment. This is shown by the alternating rhyme scheme
(abab) of the first four verses (Gipfeln-Wipfeln, Ruh-du), for
from the metrical perspective, the fifth verse (kaum einen
Hauch) introduces the embracing rhyme of the poem’s second
half, yet in terms of content it is still providing the semantic
conclusion of the alternating scheme of the poem’s first half.
All this has a retarding effect on the movement of the last
four verses, thereby reinforcing the calming effect.
If we summarize these observations of Goethe’s mood poem,
then we could formulate the following principle about the
lyrical text’s mood and atmosphere: atmospheric moods in
lyrical texts result from the abduction of bodily experience
into rhythmic language. We will now test this fundamental
principle using the example of five different twentieth-cen-
tury poems, whose common goal is to represent the specific
atmosphere of a city or metropolis in lyrical form.

desigNiNg urbaN atmospheres: a comparisoN


of five metropoLitaN poems

The following five poems treat Paris, Tübingen, New York,


Rome and Cologne. They cast a sharp light on the perception
and representation of metropolitan atmospheres. The dif-
fuse mixture of smells, specific acoustics, and typical lights
settings are significant signs of a city’s particular forms of
life, and, as such, they are rendered recognizable by the lyri-
cal text. It makes a big difference whether one is in a narrow
historic city with its winding, ascending streets, as in Harald
Hartung’s “Rom Via Zucchelli, or whether one is in a great pub-
lic park, as shown in Erich Kästner’s “Jardin du Luxembourg”
and Rosa Ausländer’s “Battery Park.” Rose Auslander’s poem
shows that the breadth of a harbor with the cry of seagulls
and the sight of dolphins can have an enormous influence on
the atmosphere of a city, so that even the urban center one
can feels its pull. The atmosphere of a city can change just by
the sight of a tower one can climb in the center of town, as
in Johannes R. Becher’s “Tübingen” or “Die Harmonie,” or if
one is wandering along the periphery of metropolis, as is the
case in Brinkmann’s “Einen jener klassischen.” Even the lyrical
subject’s specific way of moving plays a role: one can sense the
atmosphere of a city while seated, as Erich Kästner does, or,
like Harald Hartung, by lying down, but also like Brinkmann
by walking. And in the end the inhabitants with the forms of

64
life also contribute to the atmosphere, a point that Gernot
Böhme rightly emphasizes. 32 Harald Hartung’s poem gath- 32 Böhme, Gernot: Atmosphäre.
ers together the sounds and smells that Italian housewives Essays zur Neuen Ästhetik. Frankfurt
1995, p. 66.
create in the winding alleyways of Rome’s historic center and
which flow into the sensory perception of the lyrical subject.
According to Gernot Böhme, the atmosphere of a city is pro- 33 Ibid, p. 55.
duced on the whole by “the manner in which life is lived
within it.” 33 Every city has its “own characteristic life” 34 which 34 Ibid, p. 53.
very often is only revealed to the foreigner:

Atmosphere refers to something that is ordinary and obvi-


ous to the inhabitant and a quality that the native is helping
produce as he leads his life, but which first becomes obvious 35 Ibid, p. 55.
as a character trait to the stranger. 35

If we use the five poems in order to compare the bodily feel-


ing of big city inhabitants with the foreign perceptions of a
tourist, then one point becomes clearly obvious: the touristic
sensorium perceives the metropolis as a wide rather “docile
landscape molded by sun and air” as Rose Ausländer writes
characteristically in her New York-poem “Battery Park.” At
first glance, the atmosphere in a city or metropolis seems
closely connected to the climate, air, and nature: “This park
lies close by paradise./ And the flowers bloom, as if they
knew it.” Kästner writes these lines about his visit in Paris’
“Garden of Luxembourg.” As a rule the tourist’s gaze registers
a rather positive impression, which can be traced back to
the consistency of the proportions: “Not too much darkness,
enough light,” – this is the impression Tübingen leaves with
Johannes R. Becher on his first visit. It is a harmonious cor-
respondence: “The castle speaks to the bridge/ The bridge
speaks down to the river. The darkness into the light.” That
the city could terrify or disgust its inhabitants, this possibil-
ity seems to become obvious first to the natives, as shown
from the painful experiences on their faces. Rose Ausländer
suggests such ambivalence about Manhattan and Rolf Dieter
Brinkmann about a “half-dead” Cologne.

Erich Kästner; Jardin du Luxembourg (1929)

Dieser Park liegt dicht beim Paradies.


Und die Blumen blühn, als wüßten sie’s.
Kleine Knaben treiben große Reifen.

65
Kleine Mädchen tragen große Schleifen.
Was sie rufen, läßt sich schwer begreifen.
Denn die Stadt ist fremd. Und heißt Paris.

Alle Leute, auch die ernsten Herrn,


spüren hier: Die Erde ist ein Stern.
Und die Kinder haben hübsche Namen
und sind fast so schön wie auf Reklamen.
Selbst die Steinfiguren, meistens Damen,
lächelten (wenn sie nur dürften) gern.

Lärm und Jubel weht an uns vorbei


Wie Musik. Und ist doch nur Geschrei.
Bälle hüpfen fort, weil sie erschrecken.
Ein fideles Hündchen last sich necken.
Kleine Neger müssen sich verstecekn,
und die andern sind die Polizei.

Mütter lesen. Oder träumen sie?


Und sie fahren hoch, wenn jemand schrie.
Schlanke Fräuleins kommen auf den Wegen
und sind jung und blicken sehr verlegen
und benommen auf den Kindersegen.
Und dann fürchten sie sich irgendwie.

Erich Kästner, Garden of Luxembourg (1929)

This park lies close by paradise.


And the flowers bloom as if they knew it.
Little boys chase large wheels.
Little girls wear large bows.
What they are saying is hard to understand
For the city is foreign and is called Paris.

Everyone, even the serious gentlemen,


Fig. 1 Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris. Feel it here: The earth is a star.
© bucaniere, fotolia.com And the children have pretty names
And are almost as lovely as on the ads.
Even the statues, mostly ladies,
Would smile (if only they were allowed).

Noise and jubilation drift past us.


Like music. And still its only yelling.

66
Frightened balls bounce away
A loyal dog allows a pat
Little Negroes have to hide,
And the others are policemen.

Mothers read. Or are they dreaming?


And look up when someone cries.
Slim young women walk along the paths 36 Kästner, Erich: Doktor Erich
Young and nervous they look embarrassed Kästners Lyrische Hausapotheke.
Basel 1936, p. 68. Translated by Daniel
At the sight of a baby carriage
Purdy.
And are quietly afraid. 36

The poem “Garden of Luxembourg” did not appear in the


1928 first edition of the poetry collection, Herz auf Taille, but
rather, as Sven Hanuschek emphasized, after Kästner’s first 37 Hanuschek, Sven: Keiner blickt dir
visit in Paris from May 19 to 29, 1929.37 The poem appeared hinter das Gesicht. Das Leben Erich
Kästners. Munich & Vienna 1999,
first in the second edition of 1936, wherein it replaced one
p. 141.
of Erich Ohser’s full page sketches. Clearly the view of a
tourist is shown here, for there is nary a trace of critical
penetration of the apparent surface in Kästner’s idealized
Paris poem to be found. The paradisiacal atmosphere of
an earlier monarchical palace gardens which by Kästner’s
time had been turned into a state-run park in the Latin
quarter, Paris’s 6. Arrondissement. This atmosphere can be
recognized above all by its surfaces: the blooming flowers,
the pretty children’s names, the children’s faces right out of
an advertisement, the representative statue of the French
queen and famous French ladies, the background noise, the
mothers reading, and the embarrassed looking “slim young
women.” All these strikingly obvious indicators reinforce
Kästner’s equating the “Luxembourg Garden” with a paradise
or a distant star. How closely Kästner stands to the Parisian
bourgeoisie he describes here becomes clear from a remark
he made in his reference to the last line about the young 38 Kästner, Erich: Doktor Erich Käst-
girls looking nervously at their approaching motherhood: ners Lyrische Hausapotheke. Basel
1936, p. 68.
“If I were a young woman — it is a joy to young women that
I am not — I would probably also be afraid.” 38
This identificatory gesture does not collapse merely because
the language used to communicate in the Garden is unintel-
ligible to the lyrical subject: “What they are saying is hard to
understand.” Even the “serious gentlemen,” who any Expres-
sionist would view dubiously, or the repression alluded to
at the end of the third stanza, “Little Negroes have to hide,/

67
And the others are policemen.”— fall in line with the poem’s
affirmative cadence. The poem is not a satirical unmasking
of petit bourgeois mentality, instead its verses bear witness
to a sentimentality that is surely not far removed from the
idyllic images common to bourgeois life. This sympathy for
the undisturbed forms of bourgeois family life and social har-
mony, almost without any satirical interruption, shows itself
also on the formal level: the poem consists of four verses each
with six lines and it maintains a regular, five stress trochee.
Every verse has a rhyming couplet, followed by a rhyming
triplet, with the last line returning to the rhyme of the first.
Nothing here disturbs the immersion into the bourgeois life
of metropolitan Paris. This will change with Ausländer’s and
Brinkmann’s poems, which experience the atmosphere of the
city in much more ambivalent terms. What Kästner’s poem
does not yet achieve is an alignment between the atmospheric
content and the metric form. This does appear successfully
in Johannes R. Becher’s Tübingen poem.

Johannes R. Becher: Tübingen oder Die Harmonie (1938)

Könnt ich so dichten, wie hier alles klug


Verteilt ist, jedes steht an seiner Stelle.
Des Dunklen nicht zu viel, genügend Helle,
Die Burg, die Brücke und der Straße Zug

Zur Burg hinauf: verborgen nicht zuviel


Und sichtbar doch nicht alles. Auch die Wellen
Des Neckars halten Maß: in ihrem Spiel
Erscheint das Meer schon, und zugleich der Quellen

Ursprung ist spürbar. So geordnet ist


Dies alles, einfach, und doch reich gegliedert.
Wie ewiges Gespräch. Darin vermißt

Man keine Stimme. Alles wird erwidert.


Zur Brücke spricht die Burg. Die Brücke spricht
Hinab zum Fluß. Ins Dunkel spricht das Licht.

If I could write the way everything here is so smartly


dispersed, everything in its place.
Not too much darkness, enough light
The castle, the bridge and the street in a stroke

68
Up to the castle: not too much remains hidden
and yet not everything can be seen. Even the waves
on the Neckar keep pace: in their mirror
the ocean already seems lovely, and its sources, too

Origins are traceable. So orderly is


this all, simple, and yet richly articulated
Like eternal speech. No voice

Goes missing. Everything is answered.


The castle speaks to the bridge 39 Becher, Johannes R: Lyrik, Prosa,
The bridge speaks down to the river. Dokumente. Wiesbaden 1965, p. 103.
Translated by Daniel Purdy.
The darkness into the light. 39

What distinguishes this poem in its representation of an urban


atmosphere from Kästner’s is the transfer of the perceived
atmosphere not just into the lyrical content, but also into
the metric form. This becomes obvious when one considers
the central motif of harmony. On the one hand, as the spe-
cific atmosphere of the Tübingen along the Neckar, harmony
is oriented towards the philosophical concept of virtue in
Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, according to which only the
middle between two extremes (mesotes) counts as the proper
measure. This hymn to the city Tübingen is based on this
concept of harmony, for the lighting conditions in the city
are similarly harmonious —“ Not too much darkness, enough
light”—, the city’s clarity —“ not too much remains hidden/ Fig. 2 Neckarstadt Tübingen.
and yet not everything can be seen.” — ,as well as the role of © pp77, Fotolia.com
nature, specifically, the river: in the Neckar’s playful waves
“the ocean already seems lovely, and its sources, too.” The
harmony that the speaker believes to have found in Tübin-
gen depends on the balance of light and darkness, the richly
articulated order, the smart dispersion of the things as well as
the measure that the Neckar’s waves maintain, that is to say,
the city’s proper proportions. The end of the poem calls atten-
tion to another important element in this harmony, namely
the strikingly correct correspondence in the placement of the
city’s landmarks: “Everything is answered./The castle speaks
to the bridge/The bridge speaks down to the river.”
This harmonious mixture of clear order and proper correspon-
dences should presumably also be found into the form of the
poem, as the first line unmistakably states: “If I could write the
way everything here is so smartly/dispersed. …” Indeed just

69
this happens through Becher’s wonderful maneuver. To begin,
he uses the strict form of a sonnet, which entails an estab-
lished form of fourteen metrically arranged verses, that are
traditionally divided into four short verses: two quatrains and
two subsequent tercets. While the sonnet form corresponds
to the emphatically observed fixed order that the Tübingen
landmarks occupy, the continuous enjambments between
these four verses can easily be read as the equivalent of har-
monic correspondences: “Everything is answered./The castle
speaks to the bridge/ The bridge speaks down to the river.”
The individual four verses “speak” to one another through the
enjambments that connect one with the next. Here we find
the metric as well as the verse form that artfully reproduces
the urban atmosphere in all its specificity. A poem can create
such an effect when it allows for an ingression in which the
uninterrupted positive experience of an urban atmosphere can
unfold. It remains to be demonstrated that a similar aesthetic
effect can be developed even when the metropolis makes an
ambivalent impression, when there is a discrepancy in the
kind of experiences felt, as the both the following poems by
Rose Ausländer and Rolf Dieter Brinkmann show:

Rose Ausländer, “Battery Park” (1965)

Fügsame Landschaft von Sonne und Luft modelliert


Uferlange fläche aus Wasser unf Land
Der die verankerte Arche im Inselherz spurt,
weiß um das Doppelgesicht dort am Rand

Schiffe und Schatten in Trance die Wasser schlafen


Auf dem hypnotischen Spiegel tanzt ein Delphin
mit atmosphärischen Fischen. Der träumende Hafen
schwebt zu überseeischen Schneebergen hin.

Nicht weil die Statue heroisch die Fackel reckt—


taucht in die Taubenruh im ahorngefalteten Licht
Ins Selbstbild vertieft, vom flüssigen Feuer erschreckt,
Fig. 3 Battery Park, Manhattan, New versinkt der Narziß vollzieht sich das andre Gesicht
York. © David LoGiudice, fotolia.com
Compliant landscape molded by sun and air
Shoreline surface made of water and land
Whoever senses the anchored arch at the island’s heart,
knows the double-faced edge out here

70
Ships and shadows sleep entranced in the water
A dolphin dances on the hypnotic mirror
with atmospheric fish, The dreaming harbor
floats overseas to snowy mountains

Not because the statue raises the torch heroically


does it dive into the pigeon’s restful oak-leafed light 40 Ausländer, Rose: Gesammelte
Lost in its own image, startled by the liquid fire Gedichte. Cologne 1977, p. 26. Trans-
lated by Daniel Purdy.
Narcissus sinks, raising the other face. 40

What distinguishes this poem from Kästner’s and Becher’s


touristic works, is the sense for the ambivalence of the
metropolis’s representative surfaces, for its Janus face. Yet 41 Braun, Helmut: “Ich bin
the poem also shows an enormous willingness to immerse fünftausend Jahre jung”: Zur Biogra-
phie von Rose Ausländer. Stuttgart
itself into this touristic superficiality. This indecision can be
1999, p. 89.
explained through biographical circumstances. As her biogra-
pher Helmut Braun noted, at the time when she wrote “Battery
Park,” Rose Ausländer was “an aging, sickly, and increasingly 42 Ibid, p. 90
lonely emigrant, a Jew who felt she still belonged to Ger-
man culture.” 41 She was isolated in New York, “a foreigner 43 Ibid.
without a goal,” 42 which Braun argues also shows itself in
her New York poems: “whether she depicts her daily routine 44 “Riverside Park, Columbus
as a straight-jacket of responsibilities, as in “24 Hours,” or Avenue, the Metropolitan Opera, the
Hudson Battery Park, the Statue of
whether she holds onto the freedoms and small pleasures of
Liberty, Bowling Green, everything
Sundays in Central Park and along the Hudson.”43 Ausländer’s that she mentions as part of the
New York poems are a sign of her withdrawal a life organized landscape, river, streets, buildings,
around Central Park and the Hudson. 44 Even Battery Park, belongs to these two neighborhoods
or is in full view from them, such as
that ten hectares square public park on the souther tip of
the Empire State Building.” ibid.
Manhattan island in New York City, belongs to these two
favorite neighborhoods of Ausländer. One has a view of the
harbor from there but also the Statue of Liberty can easily be
seen. From a tourist’s perspective it is a representative site.
To recapitulate: Ausländer observes this park with obvious
mixed feelings, yet it nevertheless remains the “anchored
arch” at the heart of the island – the melting pot of New
York, presumably — that is seen with real ambiguity. The
image of the whole makes this ambivalence obvious. This
feeling is referred to as double-faced in the poem’s first verse,
an allusion to the “compliant landscape” of the harbor in
contrast to the “anchored arch” in the city’s heart. And yet
the poem is carried by an immersive momentum, which Fig. 4 Battery Park, Manhattan, New
the hypnotic perception of the second verse only heightens: York. © SeanPavone Photo, fotolia.
com
these ships and shadows appear as if in a trance, much like

71
the “hypnotic mirror” on the water’s surface and the snowy
mountains that float far beyond the “dreaming harbor.” But
what then orients the ambivalence? In grammatical terms,
the answer is not easy to find, though the narcissist of the
third verse seems to be the Statue of Liberty. “The other
face” of the city seems accordingly to be closely connected
with the Statue of Liberty’s self-image, which completely
absorbs the monument and establishes the ambivalence.
While the “dreaming harbor”— the nominative subject in
the second verse—dives into “the pigeon’s restful oak-leafed
light,” the statue’s representative heroism stands in sharp
contrast, as the “not because” of the third verse make clear.
That this ambivalent experience can be given shape in the a
formal sense is shown by the following poem by Rolf Dieter
Brinkmann:

Rolf Dieter Brinkmann: Einen jener Klassischen (1975)

EINEN JENER KLASSISCHEN

schwarzen Tangos in Köln, Ende des


Monats August, da der Sommer schon

ganz verstaubt ist, kurz nach Laden


Schluss aus der offenen Tür einer

dunklen Wirtschaft, die einem


Griechen gehört, hören, ist beinahe

ein Wunder: für einen Moment eine


Überraschung, für einen Moment

Aufatmen, für einen Moment


eine Pause in dieser Strasse,
die niemand liebt und atemlos
macht, beim Hindurchgehen. Ich

Fig. 5 Alteburger Straße in Köln. schrieb das schnell auf, bevor


© Rheinisches Bildarchiv rba_152030 der Moment in der verfluchten

dunstigen Abgestorbenheit Kölns


wider erlosch.

72
ONE OF THOSE CLASSICAL

black tangos in Cologne, end of


August, when the summer is already

totally dusty, right after the stores


closed, through an open door of

a dark restaurant, that belonged to


a Greek guy, hearing, is almost

a miracle: for one moment a


surprise, for one moment

a sigh, for one moment


a respite in this street

that no one loves and makes breathless


as they pass along it, I

wrote this down quickly, before


the moment disappeared again 45 Brinkmann, Rolf Dieter: West-
warts 1&2. Reinbek bei Hamburg,
2005, p. 35. Translated by Daniel
in this cursed
Purdy.
hazy, half-dead Cologne. 45

From this image of a typical Cologne street it quickly becomes


apparent that the tango described in this poem has to be
understood in the context of the monotonous rhythm of daily
life, which Brinkmann already describes in the preface to the
volume. The tango should be understood as an ingression,
in the sense of someone being drawn into an atmosphere.
Brinkmann’s poem captures a sudden, momentary surprise,
that is tellingly described as a “respite,” as a bit of excite-
ment in contrast to the “hazy, half-dead Cologne.” This “snap 46 The concept of the “snap shot”
shot” 46 taken from the “interiority” of the lyrical subject, was coined in a famous announce-
ment of Brinkmann’s volume, The
even though it does create a mood. Rather it represents
Pilots (Die Piloten), see Ewers, Hans
being drawn into a sudden surprising and exotic atmosphere Heino, ed., Alltagskyrik und Neue
that surprises the lyrical subject as it manifests itself in the Subjektivität. Stuttgart 1982, p. 94.
form of a tango. What Brinkmann does differently than Rose
Ausländer is to provide rhythmic support for his ambivalent
experience. For this singular moment, which verges on being
a miracle, is invoked suggestively in the poem through the

73
anaphoric piling up of the phrase “for one moment.” While
the poem’s first three verses are marked by a prosaic tone
of voice that dispenses with most forms of lyrical speech
such as rhyme, meter, metaphor or symbolism—completely
in keeping with the poetic program of everyday poetry in
the 1970s — the poem uses anaphora to insert a rhythmic
break from the colon in verse four onward, corresponding
to the point when the atmospheric content of the poem
shifts from monotony to sudden exoticism. This change in
form last until the end of the fifth verse, so that in the last
three verses the poem reverts back to the prosaic sound of
the opening. These alterations correspond precisely to the
temporal expansion of the very fleeting epiphany.

Harald Hartung: Rom Via Zucchelli (1979)

Ferragosto und fast voller Mond: wie


braun die Nacht ist ihren fleischlichen
Höhlungen! Die gelben Lampen Urin
Katzenschatten vibrierende Gitter
Wir spüren die trocknen Spinnweben im
Treppenhaus, Duft von Mörtel und Marmor

Nebenan die Signora gießt spat noch


ihre Topfenpflanzen auf dem Balkon, das
tropft die halbe Nacht, ersehnter Regen
in Halbschlaf und Schweiß, Gespräche Musik
ein Telefon, die Seufzer einer Frau
und irgendamm ist es ganz still, warum

ich weiß nicht fällt mir jetzt mein Vater ein


Wie wach ich bin, die Augen suchen ihn
an dieser Decke, wo sich Schatten leicht
bewegen, obwohl es still ist. Er kam
nicht weit, seine Reisen waren der Krieg
Jetzt, denk ich, ist er angekommen, hier

Ferragosto and an almost full moon: how


brown the night is with its fleshy
cavities! The yellow lamps urine
cat shadows vibrating grilles
We sense the dry cobwebs in
the staircase, mortar and marble aroma

74
Next door late the Signora waters
her potted plants on the balcony, it
drips half through the night, that yearned for rain
half asleep and sweating, musical talk
on the telephone, the sighs of a woman
and eventually it is completely quiet, why

do I now think of my father


How awake am I, my eyes search for him
on the ceiling, where the shadows move
lightly, even though it is quiet. He didn’t 47 Hartung, Harald: Aktennotiz
make it far, his trips were the war meines Engels: Gedichte 1957-2004.
Göttingen 2005, p. 145.
Now, I think, he has arrived, here 47

This poem by Harald Hartung also dwells on the underside of


a well-known scene. The poem’s location, the Via Zucchelli,
lies in the center of Rome, near the Piazza Barberini, Piazza
di Spagna, Via Tritone and the Quirinale. Very close by is the
Trevi Fountain, famously in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. Exclusive
Roman neighborhoods such as the Trinitá dei Monti and the
Piazza di Spagna are just as close by. We are dealing with a
thoroughly touristy neighborhood and yet it is being depicted
in an everyday manner. The temporal setting of the poem
makes this clear: In Italy Ferragosto falls on August 15, which
traditionally is considered the hottest day of the summer and
is therefore celebrated as the “turning point” of the summer.
Having set the date, the poem takes on an irritated tone:
the night is brown and shaped by “fleshy cavities,” which
also alludes to the narrowness of Roman alleys and house
facades. Even the Roman Signora is sighted as she waters her
flower, not as part of a holiday’s relaxation as in Kästner’s
poem but as her daily ritual. The expectations that the title
raises of sharing a tourists view are systematically disap-
pointed, for it is precisely Hartung’s everyday orientation
that prevents the immersion in an intoxicating celebration
that Kästner’s “Garden of Luxembourg” articulates.
This poem dives deep into the atmosphere of the Roman
night as the fantastical ingredients in the first stanza show: Fig. 6 Altstadt in Italien.
yellow lamps, cat shadows, urine open the first line. If in the © Kareem Yacoub
second stanza Hartung follows up with a tangible everyday
atmosphere, this arises from his detachment from conven-
tional perceptions. The lyrical subject who appears eventually
in the third stanza comes across as someone who has just

75
stepped off the train and is moving through the city for the
first time, though admittedly straight into the side streets
and back court yards. This becomes clear in the third stanza
as it dives into the memory the war-ravaged father. If he too
has now arrived in Rome, then this memory has a reconcil-
ing effect as it contemplates the father who comes home
from the war in 1947: he has arrived in the son’s memory.

summary aNd outLook


This conference focused above all on two issues: first, the
question whether it was possible to do justice to the aesthet-
ics of lyrical poetry on the basis of new phenomenological
poetics. This seems fully achievable as illustrated through
Gernot Boehme’s concept of a New Aesthetic. For a thorough
analysis, allow me to reference my longer work: Lyrisches
Gespür. Vom geheimen Sensorium moderner Poesie, which
investigates this theme thoroughly using a wide range of
examples. The second topic under discussion at this confer-
ence focused on what landscape architecture can learn from
a theory of lyrical atmospheres. In this regard, it is worth
noting that one does not necessarily need to be a lyrical
poet in order to possess an intuition for atmospheres and
moods. We should remember for a moment Smilla’s famous
intuition for snow, which Peter Høeg described in his novel,
Smilla’s Sense of Snow, recounting how the heroine saw the
supposed accident of a young Inuit boy differently than her
neighbors. Ms. Smilla was not lyrical poet, though she was
48 See, Welzer, Harald: Das kom- an expert in snow. When this boy fell from the roof of her
munikative Gedächtnis. Eine Theorie apartment building, she was the only person who recognized
der Erinnerung. Frankfurt 2005, p.
from the clues in the snow that his fall was no accident, but
152-162.
rather a crime. 48 People who have become experts in their
fields do often possess an intuition: Helmut Kohl’s intuition
for the mood of West German voters was legendary between
49 Korte, Karl-Rudolf: Geschichte 1981 and 1998 49 or Kurt Tucholsky’s and Erich Kästner’s intu-
der deutschen Einheit: Deutschland- ition for the comedy of everyday situations. Experienced
politik in Helmut Kohls Kanzlerschaft,
veterinarians have an intuition for horses, veteran design-
Regierungsstil und Entscheidungen,
1982-1989. Stuttgart 1998, p. 324ff. ers have an intuition for fashion trends, mathematicians
have an intuition for numbers, stock market traders have
an intuition for investments, detectives have an intuition
for clues and politicians for voters.
This intuition emerges after years of experience, which
becomes condensed in an intuitive capacity. As such, it

76
separates the experts from the dilettantes, even though
it cannot be formulated in terms of rules and thereby be
explained to others. In other words, intuition is an “implicit”
or perhaps a “silent knowledge,” a tacit knowledge to use 50 Polanyi, Michael: Personal
a concept Michael Polanyi formulated. 50 People with this Knowledge. Chicago: University of
Chicago Press 1958; See also, Polanyi:
“tacit” intuition can notice, recognize, or feel things that are
Impliziertes Wissen. Frankfurt1985.
usually inaccessible others. By definition these things are
not objects, they are not logically explicable facts that can
be demonstrated either deductively or inductively. If they
were objects, then one could hear, see, smell or touch them:
no intuition would be required. And if they were logical
facts, then everyone could explain and understand them:
for such communication to be possible, again no intuition
would be required. In point of fact, we are dealing with a
special situation. Designing atmospheres requires one to
grasp the nuances and moods of an artifact’s individual
circumstances. Hermann Schmitz suggested how this would
be possible in his book, Der unerschöpfliche Gegenstand (The
inexhaustible Object), in which he defined “poetry as the spar-
ing explication of situations.” Two premises are necessary
in order to understand this principle:
Speaking in completely abstract terms, a situation is an
absolute or relatively chaotic complex whole that has some
factual content. A situation is absolutely chaotically complex,
when there are no relations of identity or difference within 51 Schmitz, Hermann: Der uner-
its diverse complexity; when a situation includes chaotic schöpfliche Gegenstand. Bonn 1990,
p. 65.
relationship (undecidabilty regarding identity and differ-
ence) then complexity is called relatively chaotic. 51
A second important aspect of Schmitz’s concept of poetry
I will mention as I close. Ultimately, it is established on the
basis of a deft and above all economical configuration of
elements that allow the atmospheric or mood of a situation
to unfold. In the words of Hermann Schmitz:
Poetry is a deft economy of speech. From out of the midst
of a multi-layered chaotic complexity of a whole situation,
the poet lifts out a handful of facts, programs and prob-
lems carefully and sparingly, so that the whole situation is 52 Ibid, p. 73.
illuminated without being disturbed. 52

Translated by Daniel Purdy.

77
fuNctIoN : EmotIoN
a. W. Faust

1 atmosphere as task
atmosphere aNd fuNctioN

We need to talk about feelings.


Atmosphere. Mood. This is the emotional effect of a location.
Landscape architects enjoy the privilege of working on the
creation of something that triggers feelings. The emotional
nourishment of people via “atmosphere” is the most universal
task of a garden or park; these are established as reserves of
civilisation, in which an unstated unanimity prevails that
these are places of “feeling”, and that the dissemination of
atmosphere is a key function of these places.
Regarding our towns and outdoor spaces as a whole, however,
we note a clear distinction between the world of function and
the world of creativeness, beauty, atmosphere. Feeling and func-
tional benefits are discussed as two differently positioned quali-
ties, which frequently contradict and compete with one another.
The further we remove ourselves from the “garden” and enter
the urban space, the more intensely this area of conflict is
perceived. The more significant and technical the function
appears to be, the less discussion there is of atmosphere
and the less seriously atmosphere is taken as a functional
goal of equal importance. In the case of transport projects
and technical facilities the discussion of their emotional
effect is taboo, or dismissed as “rigmarole”. Function and
emotion become stark polar opposites. A senseless blunder.

are there pLaces of pure atmosphere? the gardeN


By all accounts, no work is undertaken in paradise and there
is no requirement for it to “function”. The garden, as its
earthly representative, is free from effectivity and purpose
and exempt from all tasks.

79
This is not strictly true, of course. Sensorial and emotional
experiences are regarded as a prerequisite for human regen-
eration. Atmosphere is consequently a task of this location.
Today, gardens and parks are created as a counter model
and contrasting space to the rationalised everyday world.
Individuals and society establish the garden as a place of
recuperation and inspiration. The work of garden architects,
and thereby their raison d'être, is focused on the well-being
of people. In this respect it is possible to say that the central
function is the positive emotional effect.
Increasing individualisation means that the conditions for
this well-being are becoming more and more differenti-
ated. A programme is required, and the question arises as
to whether a space “functions”. The atmospheric energy is
caught between the increasingly specific and vocal require-
ments of programme and function. Even in our reserves,
atmosphere needs to be protected as a distinct quality.

coNtrast: are there pLaces of pure fuNctioN?


the service statioN

A service station was once the place where vehicles were


refuelled, now one can buy nearly everything there. It is
practical, as there is abundant parking and it is nearly always
open. Service stations are not intended to contribute to the
townscape or atmosphere.
We know: that doesn't mean they couldn't be full of atmo-
sphere. At night, in particular, service stations can become
magical places, popular meeting points and stranding areas.
They are hubs on lines of movement. They belong more to
the venation of transport than the place in which they stand.
They are without time and place; they are cosmopolitan.
They stand for the thrill of being on the move. At the same
time, their aesthetics are characterised by honed functional
logic and a clear-cut appearance.
Atmosphere is an apparently incidental addition to such places
and is intrinsically linked to their principal function. This cat-
egory includes bridges, railway stations and of course ports.
In fact, there is no place without atmosphere or atmospheric
potential. This renders superfluous the question as to wheth-
er we should create more places with atmosphere. A more
pertinent question is whether we should treat apparently
banal situations with greater awareness. We fail to do this in

80
large areas of our towns and cities. Paradoxically, emotional
effect is often completely extinguished where atmospheric
wrappings are applied to everyday locations. Think of the
tawdry piazetta in the shopping mall, the heather garden
on the roundabout, the rustic soundproof wall or the urban
discount store with the folksy pitched roof.
Atmospheric expression in towns and cities appears to
require an examination of authenticity and credibility. It Fig. 1 Service station by night:
would be remarkable to note how extensive and unexpected incidental atmospheric charging.
© Ute Henning
the capacity of the present-day urban inhabitant to process
emotion has become.
It appears to be time to leave the reserve and test the capa-
bility of towns and cities as an atmospheric field.

2 mood is commuNicated by our media


A prerequisite for addressing the atmospheric in a proactive
manner is that we are able to communicate about it at all.
Despite the meagre underlying knowledge, atmosphere is the
subject of ample and avid discussion. There is a body of adjec-
tives that is practically wedded to the noun “atmosphere”. When
the adjective is uttered, we automatically add “atmosphere”. Fig. 2 Overlap, functionality and
Sometimes “flair” or “character” are used synonymously. atmosphere are not contradictory.
© sinai
The advantage is that we have personal experiences that
could correspond approximately to these atmospheres. The
word pairings are used in tourism, the real estate sector and
the explanatory reports of planners.

The disadvantage is that this body of expressions is limited.


And clichés are described as a result.

taLkiNg about specific atmospheres: difficuLt


The emotional effect should be as multifaceted and specific
as the location itself. In this respect the stated clichés are
not necessarily beneficial and it is therefore not possible
to make a comparison. Each place has its own atmosphere,
comprising a possibly endless number of material facets.
The result, i.e. the mood of the space, is difficult to put into
words. The depiction of atmospheres and emotions has tra-
ditionally been the preserve of painting, poetry and music. It
is not the task of the painter, poet or composer to inform us
of the mood of their work via a further medium. Quite the

81
Cheerful Urbane Serious
Fig. 3 The semantic field of
atmospheres: the field of adjectives Familial Contemplative

Festive Grand

Atmospheres Maritime

Enchanted

Secretive Intimate

Unconstrained
Mediterranean

Objective Playful

opposite in fact — the successful verbal communication of


artistic content questions the necessity and effectiveness of
artistic production. Corresponding attempts are therefore
left to curators and critics.
Herein lies the key difference between planner and artist, as
well as the central problem of the profession. The product
of the landscape architect is the space itself, but also the
communication of that space before it is created. In this
respect we are condemned to a dual role: the specific, “real”
space is our ambition. However, this actual space is always
accompanied and prepared by a virtual place-holder space.
It is placed in competitions, in municipal committee meet-
ings, at civic gatherings. But how do we communicate the
atmosphere of the location in this place-holder space? It is
said that drawing is the language of the planner. And the
quicker the observer comprehends, the broader the expertise
of the recipient, the more it is necessary for the drawing to
also contain emotional messages.
The anticipation of the atmosphere is as much a part of our
assignment as the creative prerequisites for its creation.
A few comments from our viewpoint:
Exaggerated or “soft focus” atmospheric accessories (seagulls,
sailing boats etc.) are seldom productive. We strive to achieve
planning precision. Under no circumstances do we want
to light a commission-winning emotional fire and subse-
quently haggle over details during the work stage. Neverthe-
less, whether consciously or not, each drawing contains an
Figs. 4-6 Illustration for the Baaken- emotional vibrancy that it would be careless not to guide.
hafen Hamburg competition, 2012. Colour climate, textures, plasticity define the mood of a plan.
© sinai
An “office style” is more of a hindrance than a help here. Each
project is given an appropriate graphic aura.

82
Graphics and illustrations that zoom in on a situation show
that we also take the detail of an idea seriously. The per-
spectives bring together spatial narrative and atmosphere
particularly effectively. However, in the process we generally
avoid excessive enhancement with atmospheric accessories
or artistic over-elaboration.
Standing in contrast to representational visualisation are
system drawings and canonical works. The message here
is that a design is not the product of individual taste; effec-
tive atmosphere is not the intuitive consequence of original
ingenuity, but instead calls for a high degree of discipline
and control of resources.
Naturally, the language of the planner is also the language
itself. Only rarely is there talk of this or that atmosphere.
We concentrate primarily on precise, brief portrayals of the
constructed state in the present form. As conveyors of mood
we turn to project titles such as “Nordic by nature”, “The
urban lizard”, “Boulevard Blue” and concise prologue texts
of the concept idea, in which rhythm and language sound
correspond with a trenchant depiction of the project idea.

3 creatiNg atmosphere —
desigNiNg with space, programme aNd mood
Today, “atmosphere” is rarely defined as the key task of a
location or the starting point for a design. At the beginning
of the design process in particular, we all find it easier to talk
about the programme and the creation of space. These form
an established interactive structure. However, whether it is
stated or not, the mood of a place forms the non-material
third pole. Perhaps we can imagine the emotional aspect
of planning as part of a triumvirate:

Programme: With the specific functional fields and processes


of a space, connected to terms such as the experience of
nature/play/gardening/sport.
Space: With the structural and spatial layout of the location, Fig. 7a-d Zoom_in, Baakenhafen
connected to terms such as spatial edge/visual axis/order/ Hamburg competition, 2012. © sinai
openness/screening.
Mood (atmosphere): With the emotional and sensorial compo-
nents of a design, associated with terms such as festive/shim-
mering/sacral/raffish/mystical. As planners, we use these
three parameters to move the discussion spiral for the design

83
onwards. Regardless of which side one begins from, sooner
or later the three parameters harmonise in a good design.
Equal discussion within the aforementioned programme/
space/mood sphere would be the logical consequence for the
establishment of the atmospheric in discourse with the public.
The challenge in this always lies in an imbalance regard-
ing comprehensibility. Whilst mutual agreement is swiftly
form
reached regarding space and programme, opportunities for
expression and references need to be constantly redefined
when it comes to atmospheric aspects. The exchange of
space

programme atmosphere
images remains an essential element.
The following analysis of images is not intended to give
the impression that atmospheres have been created spe-
content cifically to suit the conference theme. It represents a brief
technical basis
retrospective in which the interaction of mood, space and
programme can be observed.

terp-level motifs of the skerry landscape

proLogue: workiNg with what is aLready there


Faults
The place is always already there. A new form always destroys
an existing one. Planning begins with removal and the far-
reaching decision as to what relationship the existing shall
geplan zum Wettbewerb .
3
Systemzeichnung Wettbewerb .
have with the new. We asked ourselves: in which places do
akenhafen Hamburg 2012 Baakenhafen Hamburg 2012 visitors most often declare “This has got atmosphere!” With-
Relief out a more precise differentiation of what kind.
It is nearly always associated with the old and established,
om_in zum Wettbewerb .
akenhafen Hamburg 2012

Joints + Grooves Pine + Birch irrespective of the “target group”: the tree canopy casting
areas of light and shadow on the ground, moss on walls, the
regular irregularity of old surfaces. That which has “evolved”
appears to impress people more than that which is “made”.
The addition of a contemporary form layer can make the
existing mood more distinctive and anchor it in the present.
Urban land Vegetation
Dealing with mature trees in particular is time consuming
and can seldom be conducted on paper, but only in situ. The
Bands of rock
incredible atmospheric energy radiated by old trees demands
respect and humbleness: how much can we reshape this
place? How will our creations age alongside these?
The Stadtpark in Ascherleben is characterised by ash trees
of up to 40 metres in height, situated on a very simple floor
Fixtures plan. Prior to the remodelling the trees were scarcely distin-
Fig. 8 The creation of space as a guishable anymore amidst the rest of the growth. After the
prerequisite for atmosphere. © sinai cautious redesign was completed, people often said that it
looked as if it had always been there.

84
In contrast, the old, bent white willows in Kitzingen are the
only existing element to remain in a complete redevelopment.
Nevertheless, they determine the situation. The structure
of the Urban Balcony has been built around them.

spatiaL Narrative — the coNceNtrated space


The development of the spatial narrative represents the most
visible and far-reaching intervention for the site. We like
to work with contrasts between open, fluid spatial narra-
tives and spaces that are more hermetic and inward-looking.
Atmospheric density is created here through the limitation
of creative means and reduction in external influences. Clas-
sic examples of such spaces are enclosed, intimate garden
spaces and the relationship between the intimate and open
space is decisive for most forms of garden design.
The labyrinth or maze represents a particular form of spatial
limitation, in which the tension between open and closed quay-level motifs of the historic port

space is accentuated. The perceptive field of the observer Granite cobblestones + Rails

moving through it is restricted to a few metres ahead.


We like to use labyrinthine situations for moments of great
sensuous concentration.

spatiaL Narrative — the settiNg


Urban land

Far more often than in hermetic spaces we work within the Harbour planking

urban or landscape context, in other words working with


influences that determine the site by its surroundings or
edge. The arrangement of the spatial composition and views
is based upon a spatial analysis.
The creation of accentuated spatial narratives with defined Fixtures

edges, including the conscious placement of key motifs, is


one of the central approaches for atmospheric design in Cranes

the urban space.


Basing the development of Kitzingen‘s new townscape on
views of the diverted Bimbach stream in the foreground
was key to determining the identity of the new Park am
Bleichwasen. With this previously unknown perception
the districts on either side of the Main River move closer Fig. 9 System drawings for the
together, and the park becomes a space for the urban area Baakenhafen Hamburg competition,
2012. © sinai
as a whole. In turn, this serves to fulfil the programmatic
tasks. This vista was the subject of much creative effort,
with a row of poplars from the 1960s removed.

85
spatiaL Narrative: focaL poiNts
aNd distiNctive obJects
Not just the exterior setting but also the inner aspects lend
the space structure and intrinsic energy. The placement or
spatial positioning of an object can be an effective deter-
minant for the mood of the space. At the same time they
set signals for the programming of the space.
The Orange is a play object on the school campus in Aschersle-
ben. It arouses curiosity and encourages the exploration of
its interior. It brings vitality and freshness to the ruins of
an old orangery. It conveys the new functional layer within
the historic casing.

spatiaL characters for the programme


Atmospheric distinctiveness is the specific expression of
the programme. This places a focus on the question of for
Figs. 10-11 Kitzingen Urban Balcony what and for whom we are designing in the first place. The
(Stadtbalkon). © sinai effectiveness of atmospheres is seldom universally valid.
Emotional signals also begin with particular experiences
and expectations.
However, we increasingly ask ourselves to what extent specific
expectations should be consciously undermined. Monofunc-
tional structures do not always improve parks as complete
organisms. One example of a target group-oriented design
is the Hafenpark in Frankfurt. Technoid treillages frame the
play areas like arenas, almost resembling a radiator grille.
Dynamic, metallic, audacious.
In contrast, the new skating area in the old park interprets
the task differently. In the Concrete Jungle the bowl and
street areas are woven into a green park structure. The idea
was a controversial one amongst the skating community.

estabLishiNg mood via the programme


The agreed programme often influences the design and
the atmosphere. Alternatively, it can also be said that the
conscious placing of functional focal points results in the
creation of an atmospheric scenography. The interplay of
active and contemplative visitors moulds the park and the
park experience.
Play in the park often takes place behind fences and hedges.
There is both seclusion and security. On the Herrenbreite in

86
Aschersleben the playground equipment of Florian Aigner
forms an open play cosmos. The openness of the play area plac-
es high demands on the “sculptural” quality of the ensemble.

Narrative coNteNt
Each place carries a story within it and there are places
whose aura and mood can be traced back to this story. Using
the narrative content of a place to design incorporates the
knowledge and interpretation of the visitor, it stimulates
the imagination. The term genius loci (spirit of the location)
lends design strategies an almost spiritual air and delivers
at the least a distinctive identity for the location.
In narrative designs a narrative guiding theme forms the
creative impetus and supplies the design with a distinc- Fig. 12 The composed picture,
tive formal rationale. Depending on the extent to which urban silhouette by the Bimbach in
Kitzingen.
the narrative source is revealed, it influences and overlays
the perception of the actual location.
In this manner, the scientific/academic universe of the
Baroque universal scholar Adam Olearius played a key role
in determining the 2010 State Garden Show in Aschersleben.
Visitors experience this most vividly with the Aschersleben
Globe in the Stadtpark: as an artistic scientific model, it forms
a contemporary interpretation of the globe of Olearius in
Schleswig-Gottdorf.
In contrast, in places of remembrance and memorial the
historic narrative forms the central programme of the open
space, as is the case with the Platz des 09. November 1989,
the Berlin Wall memorial and the memorial in Bergen-Belsen.
One factor common to all of them is that knowledge of what
occurred also determines the emotional perception of the
space. We use these locations as a projection space for the Fig. 13 The concentrated space,
imagination of the visitor. In contrast, the atmospheric design sensorial labyrinth in Aschersleben.
Both photos © sinai
of these spaces is less prominent.
Today, the Platz des 09. November 1989 is a brittle site in
front of the Bösebrücke bridge on Bornholmer Straße, a place
of significance, as it was one of the locations where the Wall
fell. Steel tracks on the ground provide a parallel guide to
the events of the day the Wall fell, bearing significant quotes
such as Schabowski’s “Unverzüglich … Sofort” (“Forthwith
… Immediately”). A chronography that enables the day to be
reviewed as it occurred.

87
ambivaLeNce aNd compLexity
The quality of some sites lies in the contrariness or complexity
of their atmospheric messages. The memorial in Bernauer
Straße is such a place. The competition brief for the memorial
was initially to make comprehendible the structures of the
former “death strip” and the events that occurred at the Wall.
However, the message imparted by the site is not so straight-
forward: the memorial stands for the existence and the
overcoming of the Wall. The historic element did not end
in 1989, the traces of the post-reunification era also tell their
story. In addition, as the dividing line between the districts
of Wedding and Mitte, Bernauer Straße today marks one of
the harshest ruptures of social segregation in the city. As
a public space, the memorial therefore also has an urban
planning dimension.
The most apparent element is probably the contrast between
the rough, rusty steel installations of the markings and inser-
tions and the lush green of the grass area. The memorial is
consequently also a usable urban space, where groups of
visitors can sit on the grass.
The perception of the border wall is also double layered.
The marking is formulated as a measured series of verti-
cal steel poles. Depending on the angle of view, the lamella
effect makes the arrangement appear either closed or almost
transparent.

atmospheric sequeNce
Scarcely any open space consists of just one location or
just one atmosphere. Moving through the space enables a
sequence of individual situations to be experienced. A place
is then perceived as a collage of experienced impressions.
The sequence of atmospheric impressions is most evident
along clearly specified linear movement axes.
A location such as the Bergen-Belsen memorial cannot be
rendered accessible without background knowledge. There is
no possibility to find an adequate atmospheric response to
the mass murder that occurred. There is always a bird singing
Fig. 14 Atmospheric density. somewhere on the enormous site. Visiting the exhibition
Vegetation in Kitzingen. © sinai in the new document building it becomes evident that the
creative means of landscape architecture alone are not at
all appropriate as a response.

88
It is essential to visit the exhibition prior to exploring the
site. A clearly predefined, linear guidance of the visitor is
unavoidable. The path across the site passes through the
building with the exhibition, penetrating the structure. Along
this line of movement each visitor experiences a sequence of
individual perceptions before starting to explore the complex
site itself: collection—confrontation— emptiness— distance
and finally orientation and investigation.

spheres — the experieNce of opeN


space as provider of structure
Parks are mostly non-linear complex spatial sequences or
atmospheric networks, not static individual impressions. The
way in which they are perceived is derived from the chosen
manner of movement through the space, with its often fluid
interfaces. How is it possible to adequately form and portray
the complex park experience or urban landscape? It is evident
here just how limited our depictive options are with regard
to layouts and the visualisation of individual impressions.
We need to work with auxiliary means as long as it is not yet
technically possible to achieve a complete, realistic anima-
tion. The measures we employ here include
• Comic-like image sequences corresponding to the presumed
sequence of experiences.
• Mapped experience scenarios for anticipated user move-
ments within the park.
• Experience diagrams detailing the various experience
components in their intensity along a defined route.
One primitive yet effective medium is atmosphere maps.
The mapping of “spheres” refers to spaces that we "sense"
to differ from one another with regard to their atmosphere.
Spheres describe an emotional spatial perception that is
independent of clear spatial borders, also displaying gaps and
overlaps. The sphere maps were developed as an analytical
tool for the Kulturpark Neubrandenburg, which is difficult
to comprehend spatially. Since that time we have repeatedly
worked with the “soft” term of spheres. The term is “soft”,
not clearly defined and necessarily subjective. And yet it is
valuable, as it enables the non-representational, emotional
content of a space to be addressed.

89
spheres as part of the urbaN structure
As landscape architects, we conduct urban planning from the
point of view of the urban space. A vision for the urban space
legitimises the framework-providing architectural structures.
Open space itself is the decisive resource for comprehensive
renewal in the development-weary towns and cities of Europe.
It is capable of establishing new structural interrelations,
and of defining these. In particular, it is the German towns
and cities with an uncontoured, disjointed form resulting
from war damage and reconstruction that deserve recon-
sideration. It is time for our towns and cities to receive a
landscape upgrade. An example of this are the open spaces
of the German Federal Garden Show Heilbronn 2019. The
Fig. 15 Platz des 9. November 1989, focus of the show is not upon one large park, but instead a
Berlin. © Jan-Erik Ouwerkerk splintered ensemble of spaces yet to be defined. The Neckar
valley central to Heilbronn is fragmented, unattractive and
impermeable as a result of the waterways, highways, railway
lines and numerous derelict sites. At first glance the area
seems to consist of residual spaces of dubious aesthetic merit.
With the definition of landscape spheres commonalities are
defined for overarching atmospheric landscape entities.
By addressing open space “spheres” in the urban planning
context we overcome the quantitatively and geometrically
determined approach to open space in the urban area, regard-
ing it as an emotionally effective habitat for people. For us,
the work in Heilbronn points the way to a new, integrative
view of the urban landscape. Moving away from parcel-
ling, fragmentation and separated competencies towards
a holistic approach that overcomes the barriers between
transport space, urban space, park space and, on a general
level, “utility space” and sculpted space.

4 summary
Working in less idyllic cities such as Heilbronn in particular
has assumed a pioneering importance for us. Atmosphere is
not an ethereal object, reserved for specially chosen locations
or spaces. Instead, the city as a whole is an atmospheric fabric.
This opens up a new, integrative view of the urban landscape
on a greater scale. In planning practice the city remains an
Figs. 16, 17 Berlin Wall Memorial. area of conflict between competing urban functions. The
© sinai competing spatial requirements of construction interests,
development, technical infrastructure, the increasingly strict

90
demarcation of private and communal interests, even the ever
more differentiated claims of subgroups all serve to exacer-
bate the parcelling and fragmentation of the urban space.
The work of landscape architects should therefore be focused
upon understanding and defending urban space and urban
landscapes as intrinsically interwoven environments. This
does not infer the enforcement of quantitative claims to
space, but rather a qualitative permeation into all aspects of
an urban area. A space that overcomes the barriers between
transport space, urban space, green space and, on a general
level, utility space and sculpted space.
But what does this superordinated quality consist of? As
sectoral planners we can attempt to use quasi-scientific
approaches from sociology and ecology, as architects with
the assertion and realisation of creative quality. However,
“atmospheres” could become a signal aspect for the intro-
duction of emotional quality to the design, between spatial
narrative and programme.
In all of the illustrated difficulties of conveying and commu-
nication it is ultimately this surprising concept that expresses
what our core task represents: namely forming the urban
area as a human habitat.

Translated by Leslie Ocker.

91
figs. 1-4 bergen-belsen memorial,
germany 2012, sinai. © klemens ortmeyer

fig. 5 urban squares in frederiksberg,


copenhagen, denmark 2006, sLa architects.
© ulrika walmark

figs. 6-8 cloud — square at the Nykredit-


bank, copenhagen, denmark 2011,
sLa architects. © sLa

fig. 9 city dune, copenhagen, denmark


2011, sLa architects. © Jens Lindhe

fig. 10 city dune, copenhagen, denmark


2011, sLa architects. © orev, sLa
PHOtOgraPHing atMOsPHeres

93
112
DEsIGNING AtmosphEREs
pARt 2

113
AtmosphERE— A thIN
fIlm of ENclosuRE
stig l. andersson

i
According to the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary, atmo-
sphere is “the envelope of gases surrounding the earth or
another planet”. The Earth’s atmosphere consists of several
different spheres. The troposphere is the one closest to Earth.
The depth of the troposphere is extremely thin; it varies
between 17 km at the equator and 7 km at the poles. The
troposphere contains approximately 80% of the atmosphere‘s
mass and 99% of its water vapor and aerosols.
The term atmosphere derives from Greek: “Atmos” = vapour,
and sphaira = “ball” or “globe”. Atmosphere is evaporated
water. Water is a simple molecule of two hydrogen atoms
and one oxygen atom (H2O) with exceptional chemical and
physical qualities which makes it crucial for the life processes
within the atmosphere.
Thus, without our vaporous, water filled atmosphere, life
on Earth—or indeed life anywhere—would not have been
possible.
Water is found everywhere in the Universe. But we do not
know when water first appeared on Earth. The earliest sign
of water, as we know so far, is tracks from the Earth’s first
ocean found at the 3.8 billion years old Isua Rock stones in
Nuuk, Greenland. So we know that sometime between the
formation of the Earth 4.6 billion years ago and the creation
of the Isua mountains 800 million years later, water must
have come to Earth.
We also know that the amount of water within the atmo-
sphere has been ever constant since water first appeared
on Earth. Thus the Earth’s collective mass of water (the so-
called hydrosphere) is 1,338,000,000 km³—and has been
since the beginning.

115
ii
Water exists in three different states: In aerial forms like
clouds and fog; in liquid forms like waterfalls, the sea or the
rain; and in solid forms like ice, snow and crystals.
Ice, water and fog. Silence. Water turns white when frozen.
We often cognitively combine white and silence. Quietly the
snow falls, we say, and indeed, in most cultures the white
color usually signals serenity and calm. In Japan white is not
even seen as a color: In Japan white is a state, a condition.
Often we attribute ice and waterfalls with poetic values. We
think of them as beautiful and attractive natural phenom-
ena, we visit them on holidays, and they tend to fill us with
energy, pleasure and life. Standing in front of a waterfall
or an ice-filled gletscher lagoon invariably evoke feelings
hidden deep within us.
What interest me, however, are not the images or the looks
of these phenomena; it is rather the correlation between
what you sense when seeing them and the thoughts you
have after seeing them.
First you sense. Then you think. And then you start to reflect
on “what did I sense? What did I see?

iii
In the so called ‘dry gardens’ of Zen Buddhism, the land-
scapes and gardens are composed without water. In these
dry gardens we also find waterfalls without water. It is the
arrangement and the shape of the stones that make up the
waterless waterfall’s shifts in form and flow.
The Japanese book The Secret Book of Garden describes how
to arrange the stones in the dry waterfalls. But the book is
without images – it is only text: only factual descriptions on
how to arrange the waterfalls. Like the traditional Chinese
Gōngshí scholar’s rocks they are pure abstractions, removed
from context: Their prime aim is to generate emotions, feel-
ings, sounds, flow and ambiences.
The composition of spaces created by the arrangement of
stones reflects a knowledge about nature, at the same time
scientific (the understanding of stone formations, vegeta-
tion, the flow and the nature of water, etc.) and poetic (the
sense of balance, the ambience of space, etc).
The arrangement and the creation of these manmade spaces
are thus based on experiences with phenomena in nature
and with nature’s processes. But the same also applies to

116
the experience of the manmade spaces: To fully experience
the Japanese waterless waterfalls you must have known and
experienced the water, the flow, the humidity, the reflecting
lights and the coolness of water moist in the air of an existing
waterfall. Only then will you be able to understand the pure
abstraction that goes ahead with the waterless water fall.

iv
Atmosphere is the air in a particular place. Atmosphere is
what you sense in a particular situation.
In SLA’s project for a new urban space for the Danish Nykredit
Bank in central Copenhagen the grey days of Copenhagen
plays an integral and crucial role. (Fig. 1) In Copenhagen the
weather is overcast and cloudy two-thirds of the year. The
air is full of water: Rain, mist, fog, the short winter days and
the fluffy white clouds fading to grey to black and starting
to rain. All these natural phenomena, that form the local
cloudy weather, create the atmosphere of the place. The
urban space is designed for these weather conditions. We
named the urban space Cloud to evoke a specific Nordic mood.
Clouds, in technical terms, are called hydrometeors. They are
formed in the atmosphere through the condensation of water
vapor and ice crystals. The size, the shapes and the appear-
ance of clouds are determined by temperature, atmospheric
stability, humidity and wind. In this respect clouds are exactly
like fog – the only thing that separates the two phenomena is
the difference in the altitudes where they occur.

v
The aim of Cloud thus is to create an atmosphere where
water is present in all its three different states at the same
time: as air, as liquid, as solid. This very particular point
where water is represented in all its three forms is a natural Fig. 1-4 Cloud— Platz an der Nykredit
phenomenon called the Water Triple Point. Bank, Kopenhagen, Dänemark 2011.
© SLA Architects
At Cloud the Water Triple Point can be found with water in
all its three states:
As liquid, when the rain is being collected underground and
returned to the urban space by 2,200 vertical water jets. (Fig. 2-4)
As solid crystallized water in the bank’s new office building called
The Crystal (by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects).
And as air with the water vapor from the water jets, and
the mist and the fog from the harbor.
It is the complete range of all these sensations of the three

117
states of water from the weather, from the sky, from the
building, from the air, from the rain, from the water jets,
that form your experience of the place. To move through
the urban space Cloud is to listen to the “grey note” of the
Copenhagen weather. A calm atmosphere with the sound
and the ambience of water.

vi
Thus, as we have seen, the atmosphere is made of both,
of the specific object and the context of the object. The
atmosphere occurs through the object itself and through
the sensation of the ambience of the object: Like Cloud and
Crystal and the weather of Copenhagen, that together form
the complete atmosphere of the site. And like the waterless
waterfalls whose ambient beauty and sensuous richness is
so much more than the factual and individual components,
made from stone, rocks, vegetation and the (lack of) water.
This is the two-fold value of the atmosphere of manmade
scenery. We call this the amenity value. (Figs. 5-6)

vii
This brings us to the important questions: What is quality?
And how is it related to atmosphere?
When we look at an object we need to distinguish between
the object itself and the property of said object. Every object
is thus both object and property. In this way, when dealing
with urban space, we need to work with the physical content
of the object - such as buildings, vegetation, roads, etc. - and
the properties of this content, which is the content’s ability
to evoke feelings and atmosphere.
At the same time we must distinguish between the physical
properties of an object, and the properties we ascribe to an
object. The latter are the properties that can be experienced
or perceived with our senses and that affect us emotionally.
These two types of properties we can call the quantities of
sense and the qualities of sense.
The quantities of sense are the physical properties of an
object that can be weighed or measured: The factual informa-
Fig. 5, 6 Umgestaltung mehrerer tion of the object. The qualities of sense are the experienced
Plätze in Frederiksberg, Kopenhagen properties that cannot be weighed or measured: These are
2002-2006. © Torben Petersen
the atmospheres and what evoke us.

118
viii
What is the relationship between quantities of sense and
qualities of sense? To illustrate this, let us look at an example:
The plaice. 1
In Danish a plaice is called a “rødspætte”, which literally
means “speckled with red dots”. “Spætte” means “colored
dot” and is derived from the Dutch word “spatje”, which
means “dot”. The term palice comes from the 14th century 1 German: Flunder
Anglo-French “plais”, which in turn comes from the Latin
“platessa”, meaning flatfish, which again originates from
the Greek “platys”, meaning “broad”.
The plaice is common in the waters around Denmark. It lives
on the bottom of the sea from the coast and outward until
a depth of approximately 200 meters. Its spawning takes
place in deep water during winter and early spring and its
eggs are pelagic and hatch after a couple of weeks. In the
course of a month the newborn plaice larvae swim toward
the coast where they are precipitated when they are about
1-2 cm in size. During precipitation the larvae lies on one
side only, thus igniting the physical changes that give the
plaice its characteristic form of the flatfish. A plaice always
lies down on its left side with its left side up. This phenom-
enon is called cocalled dextral.
Knowing all this about the physical properties, we are now
able to identify and quantifiably classify the plaice. Fig. 7 Flunder, im Dänischen
Rødspætte, geprenkelt mit roten
Punkten. © SLA Architects
ix
But what happens if we look at the plaice with another focus?
It is obviously the same fish, but now it is not the factual
information about the plaice that interests us; it is the sensu-
ous experience of the plaice that interests us, the amenity
value of the plaice, the atmosphere the plaice creates.
In Europe, a plaice is normally prepared by frying a fillet on a
pan and serving it with tartare sauce, lemon and potatoes.
Another option is to turn the fillet in rasp and deep fry it.
But then let us look at a plaice being prepared by a Japanese
sashimi cook. When serving plaice as sashimi, the cook takes
the living plaice of about 1.5 kilogram out of the restaurant’s
saltwater tank. Then he cuts the white meat from the bones
into thins slices while the fish is still alive while avoiding
the vital inner organs of the fish. And places the slices of
meat back into the still living fish. The plaice is placed on
a beautifully carved tree board with condiments of grated

119
radish, wasabi and parsley and served and eaten alive and
fresh at the table. The meal is thus finished at the very short
time interval between life and decay.
In Europe, a normally fried plaice has a certain price at a res-
taurant – normally at the very cheapest end of the menu. The
Japanese sashimi plaice, however, has a completely different
price; indeed a much higher price. Physically, of course, it is
still the same fish. But while our sense of quantity is the same,
our sense of quality is quite different: The latter has a much
higher amenity value, is a much more sensuous experience,
and creates a much more complex atmosphere.
But what does this has to do with landscape architecture?

x
Well, let us sum up:
The valuation of the atmosphere and the experienced ambi-
ence is decided by the context and by the sense of quality.
Atmosphere thus is how you sense the context, the sur-
roundings. First you sense. Then you think. And this is the
whole point: To make urban spaces and landscapes that
creates atmospheres and sensuous experiences, that focus
on the sense of quality, and that make people wonder; that
make people sense before they think, and feel before they
reflect on the experience. This is both a goal and a tool in
the design process.
If this is true: that the most important thing about urban
design and landscape architecture is to create sensuous
experiences in people and make them feel and wonder about
the qualitative atmosphere of a given site, then we, in my
opinion, must reevaluate much of how we do landscape
architecture today. We must concentrate more carefully
on the effect of our designs, the property of our designs,
than about the design itself, like details, form, shape, etc.:
The atmosphere and the quality of the context are more
based on sensuous experiences than on the exact physical
expression of a site. And to enhance this view into our cities
is, to me, the job of a landscape architect.
It is not about how it looks. But what it does.

120
DRAmAtuRGy of AtmosphEREs—
thE pERcEptIoN of stAGED
mooD sEttINGs
sabine schouten

This degree of unity is rarely encountered. When Andreas


Kriegenburg opened the artistic directorship of Ulrich Khuon
at the Deutsches Theater Berlin with his staging of Joseph 1 Michalzik, Peter: “Urwald in
Conrad‘s Heart of Darkness theatre critics responded to his uns”. In: Frankfurter Rundschau,
19/09/2009.
approach with unanimous approval. Andreas Kriegenburg
masters the theatrical scenic range with bravura. The “the-
atre poet” 1 employs an “associative series of images” 2 to 2 Kaempf, Simone: “Im Verteilungs-
render the voyage of the young Captain Marlow into the kampf”. In: taz, 21/09/2009.
dark and disturbing otherness of 1890‘s Africa sensorially
tangible. Using “tiny, astonishing tricks” the “imagination of 3 Heine, Matthias: “Mit Kriegenburg
the audience” is utilised to “see and hear Africa”. 3 According im Dschungelcamp des Grauens”. In:
Die Welt, 21/09/2009.
to the critics, one particularly remarkable image for Conrad‘s
experience of alienation occurs in the so-called marionette
scene, which is “simply breathtaking”4: “Gigantic, metre-high 4 Laages, Michael: “Buch ble-
black puppets descend, six figures, emaciated to the very ibt Buch”. In: Deutschlandradio,
17/09/2009.
bones staring out with big, unblinking eyes from above hol-
low cheeks and beneath bare skulls.” 5 These giant puppets
represent the “starving of the black continent, mutated into 5 Behrens, Wolfgang: “Schaut, wie
aliens.”6 Kriegenburg and his set designer Johanna Pfau also trickreich ich bin!” In: nachtkritik.de,
17/09/2009.
effectively employ other imaginative ideas to transport the
experience of destruction, alienation and wildness to the
audience as atmospherically as possible: “His actors drag 6 Ibid.
themselves around the stage, smearing each other with
clay; they make noises with bamboo sticks, chains, rubbish
bins and microphones; they fire kitchen-roll-like cannons
into the audience to simulate a clash with the natives; and
they pour puddles of blood onto the stage when puddles 7 Ibid.
of blood are required.” 7

The potential advantage of the theatre over the novel, as


illustrated by Andreas Kriegenburg in this staging, is the abil-
ity to generate intense atmospheres in the theatre room by

123
means of varied and unusual sensorial impressions. Reading
Joseph Conrad‘s novel is to experience a sense of trepida-
tion that grows in volume over the course of the 150 pages:
this burgeoning experience of alienation, confusion and
the loss of categories previously considered safe remains a
reading experience; it is located literally between the lines
of the novel and in the imagination of the reader — seated,
perhaps, in the cosy atmosphere of the living room at home.

And it is precisely here that an opportunity opens up for stage


productions, namely if they use the sensorial impressions
of actors and audience in the here and now to generate a
direct experience of that which is otherwise only described.
In the case of Heart of Darkness this is ideally an atmosphere
of foreboding, a disturbing experience and mood of intense
uncertainty. “Ideally” should be emphasised here, as although
Fig. 1 Heart of Darkness, Deutsches Kriegenburg utilises theatrical means with virtuoso bravura,
Theater Kammerspiele 2009, he appears to subsequently fail to truly seize his audience
directed by: Andreas Kriegenburg.
of critics atmospherically.
© Markus Lieberenz

Rather, Kriegenburg‘s staging of Heart of Darkness results in


the failure of theatrical atmosphere as an aesthetic instru-
ment. More about this later.

In the following I would like to begin by addressing the ques-


tion of why the focus on theatrical atmosphere in theatre
studies became regarded as a necessity. The second part
then uses specific examples to briefly detail what the pur-
pose of a focus on atmospheres in staged environments is
from an aesthetic perspective. In the process I also detail
what an analysis of theatrical atmospheres, and thereby
their presentation on the stage, can look like. In the third
section I look beyond the boundaries of my field of theatre
studies, using an example from site specific installation art
to address the question of how and to what extent theatri-
cal criteria can be used to describe the atmospheric urban
or landscape space.

i
For decades, atmospheres failed to be accounted for as a
Fig. 2 Light as a creative means for subject of analytical observation in the hermeneutically
atmosphere in stage productions. oriented study of theatre, as they primarily exercise an
© Eky Chan, Fotolia.com
affective influence on the audience. In semiotically-oriented

124
investigations they were only discussed where they had a
recognisable significance. In one of the rare performance
analyses in which atmospheric effects were considered at
all Erika Fischer-Lichte notes:
“Light is one of the most important means of creating a
certain atmosphere. […] In our culture, for example, bright,
warm light is generally interpreted in relation to a warm, 8 Fischer-Lichte, Erika: Semiotik des
friendly atmosphere, with muted or cold light triggering Theaters. Vol. 1: Das System der the-
atralischen Zeichen. Tübingen Basel
feelings of apprehension, fear and sadness. […] If light in the
1998, p. 159.
theatre is intended to construct a specific atmosphere, it
is consequently necessary to resort to a lighting code that
functions accordingly in our culture.” 8
The individual theatrical instruments, such as light or sound,
act merely to convey meaning here, inferring a specific atmo-
sphere, such as cosiness. In the scope of a semiotic performance
analysis the identification of the phenomenon as a sign to be
interpreted by the audience is often insightful. In this manner,
for example, the hostile atmosphere can be interpreted as an
indication of the hostile relationship between two figures.
Since the 1960s, however, an ever-increasing number of stage
productions have not been able to be tackled via a clas-
sic semiotic analysis. With shifting theatrical practice, the
dispensing with the psychologically realistic presentation
of a dramatic text and the move towards the performative
saw attention focused increasingly on the dramatic means
and therefore the atmospheric factors themselves (such as
the body, the space, the voice, the light or the phonetics).9 9 An introduction to research
Since the 1990s, as a consequence of the increasing orienta- perspectives from the performative
angle is provided by Fischer-Lichte,
tion towards such action and perception processes in the
Erika and Christoph Wulf (ed.):
theatre, the focus of dramatic theory has also expanded to “Theorien des Performativen”. In:
accommodate this, with the emotional experience of the Paragrana 10/2001, H. 1. Berlin 2001.
audience forming a key component of the theatrical perfor-
mance — and with it the significance of the atmospheres,
which Erika Fischer-Lichte once again highlights:
“In the atmospheres that appear to emanate from the space
and objects these become emphatically present to those
entering them. […] They envelope the perceiving subjects in
the atmospheres in a specific manner, even permeating them. 10 Fischer-Lichte, Erika: Ästhetik des
Because the atmosphere is not facing them, at a distance Performativen. Frankfurt am Main
2004, p. 203.
to them, but surrounds and envelopes them, immersing
itself in them.” 10
From this perspective theatre is not regarded as an enclosed
stage production that the audience is merely required to

125
interpret, but rather as a performance. This constitutes a
concept that does not divide the theatrical experience along
the edge of the stage into the presentation of the actors and
11 For the dramatic interpretation of the interpretation of the audience. Instead, “performance”
the performance see Fischer-Lichte, emphasises the fact that that which is offered and perceived
Erika, Clemens Risi and Jens Roselt
influence one another mutually and continuously. Theatre
(ed.): Kunst der Aufführung – Auffüh-
rung der Kunst. Berlin 2004. is thereby conceived as a co-mingling of the perceiver and
the perceived, between the stage and the audience.11

This understanding of performance also prepared the way


12 Concerning this, see my dis- for my investigation of theatrical atmospheres.12 Because,
sertation, the studies and findings like the performance itself, the sensing of theatrically gen-
of which form the basis for this
erated atmospheres is dependent upon the simultaneous
article: Schouten, Sabine: “Sinnliches
Spüren. Wahrnehmung und Erzeu- presence of perceiver and presented subject. As is the case
gung von Atmosphären im Theater”. with theatre performances, atmospheres are a phenomenon
Berlin 2007. of the “in between”: they are as bound to perception as they
are to the contemporary situation from which they arise.
This constitutive locating of the atmospheric in the “in
between” also gives rise to the central significance of Gernot
Böhme‘s philosophy of atmospheres for my investigation.
Together with the “performative turn” in theatre theory, it
forms the starting point for my analysis. The first precursors
of the 1995 interpretation of atmosphere by Böhme were
found in psychological aesthetics works regarding mood
interpretation. Within the context of the empathy theory
of Friedrich Vischer and Theodor Lipps in the time around
1900 the question of the possibility of perceiving a “bright
landscape” is still followed back to the subject: it is one‘s
Fig. 3 Bodies. Choreography by Sasha own mood, projected onto the surrounding environment.
Waltz. © Bernd Uhlig Around the same time the psychologist Moritz Geiger was
already focusing on the alternating relationship between own
and ambient mood, generating significant impulses for the
contemporary observation of staged atmospheres— to be
returned to later. It is the question of the ontological loca-
tion of the atmospheric that is central to Hermann Schmitz‘
phenomenological interpretation half a century later. The
philosopher integrated the term in his “System der Philosophie”
(1969), to achieve the interpretation of feelings as “spatial yet
13 Schmitz, Hermann: Der Leib, der placelessly established atmospheres” 13 and desubjectify the
Raum und die Gefühle. Ostfildern emotional. Whilst for Schmitz atmospheres achieve object
1998, p. 22.
status when separated from the surroundings, Böhme links the
phenomenon to objects and their perception by the subject.
He defines atmospheres as “common reality of the perceiver

126
and the perceived”14 and makes it clear that the opportunity to
experience atmospheres is strictly dependent on experiencing
the present surroundings. It is the entirety of all individual 14 Böhme, Gernot: Atmosphäre.
spatial components that are perceived as atmosphere in their Frankfurt am Main 1995, p. 34.
physical-affective effect. Böhme links the experience of atmo-
spheres to the sensorial qualities of the objects, the ecstasy
of things. Their characteristics: form, material, colour and
volumes are no longer merely characteristics, such as those
that make a table a table, but the manner of their presence
has an effect on the space.

Taking as starting point this location of the atmosphere in


the sensorial perception of the physical world, I have investi-
gated three characteristics of atmospheric perception more 15 cf. also: Schouten, Sabine: “Sinnli-
closely: its specific spatiality, sensuality and affectiveness.15 ches Spüren […]” Diss., Berlin 2007.
The question of how the sensual, the purposeful and the
sensed are combined in atmospheric perception permeates
all three fields. Texts from various disciplines were collated
here; in addition to theatre theory works, valuable impulses
for the formation of my heuristic thesis were also received
from phenomenology, perceptive psychology and brain
research in particular.

According to these, our capability for atmospheric percep-


tion can be described as an additional modality, in which
external qualities of the surroundings combine with our
mental attributions for specific atmospheric effect.
I therefore do not assume that the experience of atmospheres
is wholly thanks to multimodal perception (such as smell +
sound + colour results in atmosphere x). As investigations
into intersensorial perception and synaesthesia research
indicate, the atmospheric is also explicitly related to percep-
tive qualities that permeate all modalities, the specifically
intersensorial. Characteristics such as these, including bright-
ness, rhythm etc. trigger somatic reactions that, according Fig. 4 Perceptibility of atmospheres.
to brain research, influence our affective sense. At the same © chairman, Fotolia.com
time, the affective experience is linked closely to the mental
processes of the perceiver. In distinction to Böhme‘s splitting
of atmospheric perception from a reflexive appropriation
of the surroundings, I assume that atmospheric perception
is determined in equal measure by mental sensory attri-
butes and sensorial perception. Both influence our physical
sentience and therefore the perception of the atmosphere.

127
Accordingly, atmospheres form as the substrate of our
intersensorial sensuality and mental conceptions. Whilst
we see, hear, smell, taste and feel an environment, whilst we
simultaneously act, react and think within it, we experience
atmosphere as a corporeally-affective extract of all of these
situative qualities. Instead of the individual impressions or
their referentiality, the traces of the atmosphere reveal the
affective holistic effect of the situation.

The atmospheric perception can therefore be described as


an integral modality, one that complements sight, sound,
touch, feel, taste and smell with the ability to perceive
environments in their affective impression. However, this
atmospheric sense is not restricted to the interaction of
the five senses, nor should it be viewed as superordinated
above the other forms of sensory perception. Instead, the
sense is more of an additional perception: although it has
no organ of its own, like the other five senses it is based on
its own modal form and its correlation: the physical sensing
of the atmosphere in the surrounding space.

ii
Theatrical atmospheres exist solely in the moment they are
perceived by the audience. In this, the specific mood in which
the atmosphere of a situation places the audience is no chance
creation. On the contrary, the atmosphere of a spatial constel-
lation can largely be manufactured—even though its effect is
ultimately dependent on the perception of the audience. The
various theatrical means of an enactment are typically care-
fully selected, and the stage composition can be monitored for
desired effect during the rehearsal process. This also applies
for stagings beyond conventional theatrical venues, such as
outdoors or in a public space—in many cases the specific
atmosphere of such spaces lends itself to their dramatic use.
Fig. 5 The role of the spectator In comparison to the staged mood settings, the atmospheres
between that which is presented and of the everyday environment are often less distinctive in
that which is perceived. © Voyagerix,
their characteristics, as their effect comprises a wide range
Fotolia.com
of heterogeneous factors. Exceptions here are, in particular,
those atmospheres that can largely be traced back to an all-
encompassing effect: for example, the atmospheric is often
linked to specific lighting and climatic factors or a succinct
sound background may dominate the effect of other ambient
qualities. “Atmospheric amplifiers” such as these are often

128
employed in the theatre. They are used in the form of lighting,
music and sounds to create atmospheres or further reinforce
the already homogeneous effect of the theatrical devices.
An analysis of theatrical atmospheres begins here. More
precisely: the analysis of the generation of intentional, staged
atmospheres, the question of whether and how they are
ultimately created, is dependent on the perception of the
audience. In my analysis of atmosphere production in theatre
the focus was therefore not upon the determination of differ-
ent atmospheric characters (such as cheeriness or menace).
These serve to reassure the audience in their own feeling
for the mood. Instead, the challenge lies more in investigat-
ing the atmospheric generation processes of theatre and
the question of how the atmospheres should be created,
and with what function. This project was facilitated on the
one hand by the subject of my investigation. To a certain
extent, the black box of the theatre enables atmospheres to
be investigated under laboratory conditions. On the other
hand, as a researcher in this “laboratory” I am not a distanced
observer in this experimental arrangement. As a spectator,
I am directly involved in the formation and respective deliv-
ery of the performance under investigation, together with
the atmospheres created therein. It is necessary to have an
awareness of these heuristic preconditions; a large number
of subjective factors flow into the personal perception of
a scenic atmosphere: idiosyncrasies, experiences gained,
cultural codes, social ties, political and historical traditions,
aesthetic preferences and typification, the mood in which
we enter the theatre and many others. At the same time, the
presumed intersensoriality can only be analytically examined
from the viewpoint of the individual senses, thereby starting
in reverse order. Nevertheless, my two highly detailed analyses
enabled a positive investigation of the intended effect of
the atmospheres. My approach involved the analysis of all
of the means and methods within a scene, using literature
covering perception psychology, aesthetic effect, neurology
etc. In a staging of Ibsen‘s Ghosts it could consequently be
shown that an atmosphere of unease and melancholy was
created, down to the complementary contrast, emphasised
in equal measure by the narration. In contrast, in the “Kör-
per” choreography of Sasha Waltz wholly arbitrary dance
scenes used alternating atmospheres to establish a quasi
narrative dramaturgy.

129
The atmospheres are therefore not merely a by-product of
the performance; the fact that they follow specific dramatic
intentions means that their closer observation can also be
of central significance beyond their respective emotional
hue when experiencing a performance.
Although atmospheres are typically described from the
perspective of a pathic subject, assailed and overcome by
the atmosphere, we are all familiar with the experience of
being left cold by the atmosphere of an environment, of
distancing ourselves from it or even fighting against it. The
observer can take an active approach to the atmosphere. At
the same time, atmospheres also stimulate a specific response
in those perceiving them. The psychologist Moritz Geiger
accurately describes this alternating relationship in his 1911
work “Zum Problem der Stimmungseinfühlung”: “On the one
hand, the emotional characters influence our affectivity: we
are all aware of the effect of a cheerful or gloomy room on
our mind, the influence of rain and sunshine on our mood.
16 As own mood (author‘s note). On the other hand, the mood 16 lends objects specific emo-
tions. In this way the gloomy landscape makes me gloomy,
and this gloomy mood in turn makes the landscape appear
grey. There is an ongoing backward and forward struggle
between my mood and the character of the landscape, which
renders the separation of landscape character and my mood
17 Geiger, Moritz: “Zum Problem difficult in psychological analysis.”17 This interrelation of per-
der Stimmungseinfühlung”. In: ceptive response and generation results in an interesting
Zeitschrift für Ästhetik und allgeme-
observation for the theatre. In this manner, the theatrical
ine Kunstwissenschaft 6 (1911), p. 1-42,
here, p. 28. accentuation of an atmosphere is often linked to a specific,
dramatically intentional perceptive approach of the audience.
A resuscitation of the imparted term of empathy appears very
expedient here when it comes to describing the relationship
between audience attitude and staging. Because empathy
in this respect no longer refers to the hermeneutically based
understanding of actions or the identification process of the
audience as with Lessing or, for example, Brecht, but instead
on the sensing of theatrical atmospheres.

This empathy may vary greatly in intensity. It can actually


make me adapt my own mood to the ambient atmosphere, i.e.
change my mind. It can also merely drift over me, imparting
an emotional impression, without my consequently feeling
dominated by it.

130
A classic function of the atmospheric in the latter sense for
narrative forms of theatre is, for example, the primarily affec-
tive representation of the story line. For example, in Andreas
Kriegenburg's staging of Heart of Darkness various sensorial
and symbolic impressions were used to generate an affective
impression of the sinister —with the function of presenting
the sinister atmosphere as a further indication in the narra-
tion of the uncanny. Naturally, such primarily semiotically
effective atmospheres are sensed by the audience, but prin-
cipally legible as symbols. They serve the narrative statement
over that which is performed. It is not necessary to be over-
run by atmospheres such as these in order to understand
them and relate them symbolically, like the larger-than-life
puppets, to the performance. Where I initially spoke of the
“failure of the atmosphere” in the Kriegenburg staging, this
is therefore due only to the critic apparently missing pre-
cisely this overwhelming transmission, a change of mood 18 See also the critics‘ review
arising from the carefully planned atmosphere. 18 Andreas at URL: www.nachtkritik.de/
index.php?option=com_conte
Schäfer of Tagesspiegel writes: “And with the evening just a
nt&task=view&id=3220&Itemid=0.
few minutes old, here comes the lubricant of music already.
A soft boom-boom-boom, atmospheric, as they say today.
A bit of guitar plucking is added. It is clear as day that this
boom-boom-boom is going to intersperse the next couple
of hours. The aim is to wear us down, as with the story of
Joseph Conrad‘s Heart of Darkness. The aim is to lull us. And 19 Schäfer, Andreas: “Im Bauch
yes, the results can be seen and heard: Great noises. Great des Geisterschiffs”. In: Tagesspiegel,
19/09/2009
puppets. Great pirate film quotes. But nothing remains of
the urgency that exudes from every line of the book.” 19

The urgency or intensity of atmosphere lacking here is made


use of in post-dramatic performances of contemporary the-
atre in particular. A second example: Meg Stuart‘s staging
for the “X Wohnungen” theatre project.

Every time I walk to the S-Bahn I pass a house in Großgörschen-


straße in Schöneberg where, some time ago, I flung a cup of
coffee full force against the kitchen wall of an apartment
on the third floor. I have never seen the tenant of this apart-
ment. I also never got into an argument with anyone there.
To be honest, I still do not know what led me to throw the
cup. I entered the apartment as a member of the audience
of the “X Wohnungen” project of the Hebbel am Ufer the-
atre. When my companion and I rang the doorbell on the

131
third floor of number 27 we were already in a state of mild
consternation. We had already attended three other stag-
ings in private apartments, where we experienced a series
of strange events. It was therefore with some trepidation
that we rang the doorbell in Großgörschenstraße. The next
moment the events came thick and fast. The door opened
and a slimy guy with the look of a cocaine user grabbed us
by the shoulder and pulled us into the long, claustrophobic
hallway of the apartment. Flickering strobe light, thunder-
ing bass, an air of menace wafted through the room. Per-
plexed, my companion stumbled half a step forwards, but
was immediately shoved back towards the door by the man.
He shouted at us in English to stand still. Our eyes gradually
grew accustomed to the light. At the other end of the hallway
I spotted a woman. She was shivering pitifully, cut by the
flashes of the neon strip lights. Her taut body was twitching
from top to bottom. Her eyes were opened wide. A kind of
heaving sphinx stared at us, with circular irises in the whites
of lash-less eyes. Then the eyeball began to flicker and the
painted gaze on the eyelid lifted to reveal the actual eyes
of the woman— with an expression equally vacant. By this
time the man next to us had started shouting again, pushing
Fig. 6 X–Wohnungen Suburbs 2005, my friend along the hall and disappearing with him into a
a series of events of the HAU Hebbel room on the right. Alone with the shivering woman, I was
am Ufer, Berlin. Choreography: Meg
considering following them when another door opened to
Stuart © Markus Lieberenz
the left. A woman in Sunday best beckoned me in. I followed
her into the kitchen, the door clicking shut behind me.
The room was the colour of rancid butter. Pale, greenish-
yellow light entered the room from outside. The woman
addressed me with a smile. “How are you?” Why was I
so nervous? “Would you like a cup of coffee?” I accepted,
launching into small talk of my own. Sipped my coffee, whilst
outside it sounded like wood was splintering, walls collaps-
ing. What was going on out there? What was happening to
my companion? What did this woman want from me? We
exchanged a few sentences. Then she suddenly turned and
flung her cup at the wall opposite. Coffee splashed, shards
flew around the room. The woman nodded at me. Encour-
agingly? A second later I also took my cup and hurled it full
force in the direction hers had taken. The moment it struck,
the woman let out an ear-splitting, terrifying shriek. At the
same time the door was yanked open. In the hallway stood
my friend, wide-eyed.

132
The horror trip through the apartment subsequently con-
tinued in a dense interaction of people, actions and rooms. I
only have a blurred recollection of some of what happened.
However, one thing I do remember is the threat that I sensed
in that apartment, and the intense blend of excitement,
nervousness and unease.
Meg Stuart staged the apartment as a surreal ghost train, a
chamber of horrors in which the borders between normality
and abnormality —and above all between fiction and real-
ity — were permeable. What happened in that apartment is
curiously difficult for me to rationalise. I cannot categorise
it as a real experience, but neither is it an “as if” experience
such as that encountered in the theatre, cinema or television.
For me, what happened in the apartment veers between
reality and fiction. It inhabits an interim space: authentic
fiction, tampered reality. What was it that drove me to hurl
actual crockery against the wall? To investigate the blending
of reality and irreality in this staging it is worthwhile to take
a closer look at the feelings of unease that are generated.
Looking back on the individual elements of the performance,
it is noticeable how strongly their respective effects overlap,
in spite of their modal diversity. Their description renders
the intersensoriality and associated effect directly apparent:
the music was dark and menacing, the colours disturbing,
the space oppressive, the light unnerving, the voices and
movements of the actors confusing and alarming. In the
performance all of these perceptions combined to form a
chain of unease, binding the spectators tightly. This careful
selection of stage elements led to the apartment‘s being
filled to the brim with an atmosphere of discomfort which
I—having myself become an actor by opening the door—had
nothing to counter with.
In this performance, unlike Heart of Darkness, emotion was
evident as a change of mood, an oscillation and attuning, an
adjustment of the inner mood to the tangible atmosphere of
the surroundings. It generated an experience on the thresh-
old of betwixt and between, temporarily transforming both
my affective senses and my usual behaviour. On entering
the apartment and its atmosphere I, too, was transformed
into an intermediate being: I was both spectator and actor,
I moved in a world that, in spite of being staged, was so
realistic that I unintentionally projected myself into it. Less-
ing‘s statement that we “become aware of a larger extent of

133
our reality with each keen desire” 20 also explains the direct
20 Petsch, Robert (ed.): Gotthold presence of the feelings that I underwent here, rendering
Ephraim Lessing. Lessings Brief- the comfortable enjoyment of a moderately scary experi-
wechsel über das Trauerspiel. Nebst
ence impossible. Whilst I am otherwise always capable of
verwandten Schriften Nicolais und
Mendelssohns. Darmstadt 1967, p. establishing a reflexive distance to narrations or figures, in
98-101, here p. 98. acknowledgment of the fictitiousness, I was unable to in the
atmosphere of this performance. It seized me straight away.

iii
One of the questions directed to me in preparation of the
“Designing atmospheres” conference was, “Do you see a dif-
ference in the significance of atmospheres on the stage and
in the urban space or landscape?” In my attempt to answer
this question I take a careful look beyond the realm of theatre
studies before replying no, I do not see a genuine difference.
Because the staged space — which, by the way, is often no
longer a theatrical space — is a staged location, just like the
architecturally created urban space or landscape, with the
intended purpose of creating specific experiences, as well
as manipulating feelings. The latter is especially evident
when it comes to the themed architecture of town centres
and shopping areas. Lulled by the sampleable but highly
artificial preserved atmospheres that are to be found at any
given location, such as a coffee chain like Starbucks, we are
surrounded by the same, familiar packaging, whether we
are in London, Berlin or Oberhausen.

The philosopher Reinhard Knodt pointed out, correctly, that


the real risk of an increasingly aesthetically and sensorially
charged environment lies not in buying too many pairs of
shoes due to the atmospheres created. Instead, the threat
inherent in the perfect representation of seamlessly tran-
sitioning atmospheric fields within the public and social
space is that a society can be unwittingly anaesthetised
and thereby successively robbed of its critical approach and
scope of action. “We are living […] in a hodology of situative
rationality that has expanded into every niche, and the vari-
ous places […] reiterate: ‘I am the most practical fulfilment
of this or that need. […] Use me as directed and replace me
in good time’. When numerous aspects of our living envi-
ronment can be determined atmospherically, as if stating
this, the result is an atmosphere in which things seem to
be monitoring us. An ICE train, a bank, a hospital, a railway

134
station […]—revolting against the prevailing atmosphere will
not bear fruit. […] Who is not familiar with that atmospheric
nothingness that renders us helpless, because, no matter
what happens, we see ourselves exposed to that 'all taken
care of' approach, whether it is heard in the music of certain
hotels, the voice of a stewardess on a flight or its counterpart
on the ICE train? What this music and these voices are saying 21 Knodt, Reinhard: Ästhetische Kor-
is: ‘Management knows what it‘s doing. Don‘t worry, just respondenzen. Denken im technischen
Raum. Stuttgart 1994, p. 60.
follow the instructions. Enjoy your trip!’” 21 In the face of this
manipulative atmospheric energy Gernot Böhme suggests
differentiating between “applied art” and “deactivated art”
and, regarding the latter, to look for the leeway to develop
abilities for dealing with the atmospheric.22 His definition 22 Böhme, Gernot: Atmosphäre.
of applied art covers the entire breadth of aesthetic work. It Frankfurt am Main 1995, p. 60.
also covers all forms of aestheticising daily life, politics etc.,
such as advertising or fashion design, as well as architecture.
Böhme posits that the arts in the narrower sense occupy
a special form within this applied art, as they enable the
experience of atmosphere without encouraging a specific
action. A reference to theatre projects such as “X Wohnungen”
already calls this approach into question. Like the commercial
or political atmospheres, the atmospheres of art also convey
implicit directions on how to act, often intending a specific
behaviour for audience and actors. The differentiation of the
characteristics of aesthetic experiences according to artistic
and non-artistic framing is also problematic with regard to
the atmospheric. However, it is still possible to identify a
number of distinctive characteristics that appear to apply
to many of the atmospheres generated in contemporary
artistic processes. These are investigated here in the work
of the artists Ingo Vetter and Annette Weisser. In their “con-
trolled atmospheres” series they spent a number of years
examining the atmospheric occupation of public spaces by
the economic interests of private investors:

In this respect, the Dutch town of Zeewolde offered ideal


prerequisites for the site-specific installation “controlled
atmosphere #10 RESITE”. The small town with a popula-
tion of around 20,000 was designed on the drawing board
in 1984 and constructed during the shortest of times, com- Fig. 7 ARTificial NATURAL NETWORKS
plete with all public buildings such as church, town hall and event 2001 in Zeewolde, Netherlands.
© tuurweb, Fotolia.com
school buildings in the polder region of Flevoland. Dissat-
isfied with the number of customers they were receiving,

135
shopkeepers initiated a survey amongst residents on what
fixtures and facilities would make a visit to the shopping
area more pleasant. Their wishes— such as trees, benches,
music — were met, including loudspeaker coverage of the
entire market square. The loudspeakers were subsequently
used to serenade the citizens of Zeewolde with muzak every
23 Muzak: the functional music typi- day during opening hours.23 The work of Vetter and Weisser
cally played in elevators, shopping focused on this desire of the residents, confirmed in the
centres and working environments
survey, for more atmosphere at the heart of the new town.
(editor's note).
Instead of drowning out the genuine background of the
site with elevator music and further emphasising its arti-
ficial nature, they focused on the acoustics produced by the
residents themselves when using the square, as well as the
landscape around Zeewolde. To achieve this they developed
an “ambient” sound collage, with its roots in the music of
Brian Eno. Over a period of 120 days the muzak programme
in the evening hours was replaced by the collage of typical
landscape and urban sounds from Zeewolde: the clinking of
a flagpole in the wind, storm, the sound of birds, the clatter
of shopping trolleys, the sound of skateboards on various
surfaces or water noises. Zeewolde‘s residents reacted to
this with bemusement: many stood standing in the vicin-
ity of individual loudspeakers, directing their attention at
the everyday noises which, otherwise cancelled out by the
muzak, suddenly occupied the space and allowed its char-
acteristic atmosphere to emerge once again. In contrast
to the shallow patter that usually imbued the space, this
atmospheric staging did not aim to establish a climate con-
ducive to shopping. Nevertheless, it elicited different forms
of behaviour by making passers-by pause, focusing their
attention on the altered space and guiding its perception,
pointing it instead towards the town, its residents and the
state of mind in Zeewolde.

Whilst commercial atmospheres have an impalpable lulling


effect, aimed mostly towards subtle customer retention via
undisturbed brand communication, the atmospheric percep-
tion in contemporary art is often characterised by uncertainty,
disconcertment and discontinuation. Possible differences
therefore lie less in the quality, intensity or manipulative power
of the moods generated by the atmosphere, but in their specific
addressing of those perceiving them. Atmospheres move more
strongly into focus in their affective distinctiveness within an

136
artistic framework. Where commercial, consumption-based
atmospheres imperceptibly deliver the behavioural reper-
toire and confirm the actions of the individual perceiving
them—“sit down, feel good, order something”—atmospheres
in contemporary theatre are perhaps more likely to urge the
audience to adopt an attitude to that which they perceive
and reflect upon the experiences initiated.
It is precisely this atmospheric characteristic frequently found
within artistic stagings — the reference to the perceptive
content present — that can also be observed in landscape
architecture. From the viewpoint of theatre studies, land-
scaped gardens or parks are staged spaces that intend specific
experiences for the visitor. In some cases they even act as a
stage, by, for example, encouraging their visitors to see and
be seen as spectators or actors.24 As with the creation of a
stage set, landscape architects can not only create specific
scenic paths or visual axes, but also the affective experiences
of the visitors. The dramatic understanding of atmosphere
can be used productively in this work as a creative category.
This enables the intended visitor experiences of the work
to be communicated and anticipated intersubjectively as
early as the design phase. With reference to the intended
atmospheric experience, the staging materials of the land-
scape architecture can be selected and combined with one
another. On the basis of an ongoing collaboration with the
actual atmospheric perception and the analysis of its com-
ponents, corrections and adjustments can be made in the
course of the design process, much in the same way as in
the theatrical process of rehearsals. Parallel to this dramatic
use, the category of atmospheric perception in landscape
architecture can also be used not only to address the “what”
of the atmosphere, i.e. its specific affective tone as melan-
cholic or cheerful, but also the “how”: such as the intensity
with which the visitors to a park are to be affected by the
atmosphere etc.

However, this transfer of the dramatic comprehension of


atmosphere to landscape architecture soon reveals two
problem areas.

1. The atmosphere of the staged landscape area is even more


strongly dependent on a range of unplannable factors than
the atmosphere of a stage production. These include the

137
weather, the visitors and their respective way of using the
park, the noise levels etc. In this manner, the atmosphere
of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin can vary significantly,
depending on the prevailing climatic conditions or groups of
visitors, which either laugh as they walk along the blocks or
cross them thoughtfully, in silent contemplation. This raises
the question as to what extent this contingency renders a
quasi-objective use of the term in landscape architecture
more difficult and counteracts the objective of aligning the
experience dimension of places to other functional decision-
making criteria, under the heading of atmosphere.
2. With regard to the incorporation of atmospheric effects
in landscape architecture designs and from a viewpoint of
theatre studies, this raises the problem of the unavoidable
binding of the phenomenon to the here and now of the
individual perceiving it within the space. If, for example, the
atmosphere of a design should be present for those involved
within the scope of a public decision-making process, this
can only be achieved in the form of a representation and
reference to “something that will be felt”. The real atmo-
sphere of the specific public space in which decision-makers,
designers and citizens meet is inescapable. Nevertheless, a
design is able to achieve that which the map of the naviga-
tion device foresees when driving through the countryside:
whilst the naked eye sees merely wasteland all around, the
cartographic depiction of a digitally-represented lake or river
creates a mood of anticipation and promise.

Translated by Leslie Ocker.

138
AtmosphERE—thE lIfE of
A plAcE. thE psycholoGy
of ENvIRoNmENt AND DEsIGN
rainer schönhammer

Does psychology have anything to say about the experience


of “atmosphere”? Does it offer any insights that designers,
reflecting on this topic, might bring to their work? Even if
contributions from the field of psychology to the topic of
“atmosphere” may initially seem difficult to find, in my esti-
mation the answer to both questions is yes.
I will begin by examining some (older) contributions from
the psychology of consciousness that help illustrate what
is special about this form of perception. Reference will be
made to, among other things, the connection between
“atmosphere” and “mood”. For the founding figures of the
psychology of (environmental) aesthetics, this relationship
was an explicit theme. Following this reminiscence, I will take
a look at how the theme of “atmosphere” has been treated
in the academic sub-discipline of “environmental psychol- 1 In the present context I do not
ogy” as it has become established since the second half of intend to offer a detailed criticism of
the many relevant works by Herman
the last century — the rather hidden treatment, it must be
Schmitz, Gernot Böhme and their
said. I would like to conclude with some observations on theoretical followers; see however
the practice of designers and architects and a perspective notes 4, 93 and 122 in this article, the
on the design of open spaces. objections in Schönhammer (1998,
1999, 2009) and Seel (2003), as well
as the more detailed criticism in
Henckmann (2007). ).—After writing
uNfocused perceptioN the original German version of this
The concept of “atmosphere” is increasingly being used to chapter in 2012, I came across the
evaluate situations aesthetically—in the widest sense. In this appeal of the Finnish architect Juhani
Pallasmaa (2011, 2014) as well as that
context it is frequently emphasised that the concept concerns of Georg and Dorothea Franck (2008)
something that is by nature diffuse. However, those holding to understand the atmosphere of
this belief rarely consider that there may be a type of percep- built environments as resulting
tion associated with this quality. Once it is recognised that from unfocused peripheral percep-
tion; the psychological literature
metaphorical allusions to the medium of air mainly refer to discussed in the present chapter
an awareness of this diffuse something, many fallacies of the supports this point of view.
ever-growing atmosphere discourse can quickly be dispelled.1

141
In his book “General Psychopathology”, the psychologist and
philosopher Karl Jaspers at one point describes fundamen-
tal aspects of consciousness. In a variation of statements
made by Wilhelm Wundt, he asserts that, in addition to
the focal point of immediate consciousness, we are always
more or less aware of what we perceive peripherally. And in
this context he uses the term “atmosphere”:
“Around the focal point of consciousness a field of attention
spreads, dimming in clarity towards the periphery. There is
only one point in clearest consciousness from which a whole
series of less conscious phenomena extends in every direc-
tion. Usually these phenomena go unremarked but taken as
2 Jaspers 1997, p. 139. a whole they create an atmosphere and contribute to the
total state of consciousness, the whole mood, meaning and
3 Schönhammer 2009, p. 252 potentiality of the given situation.” 2 So “atmosphere” is evi-
dently a useful representation of something that is present in
4 This “figure” we are concerned consciousness without our having focused attention directly
with cannot escape the singular on it: “sensing an atmosphere” is typically unfocused aware-
traits associated with perception
ness, peripheral perception. Becoming aware of “sensing an
of “ground”— which has become a
theme in itself. Thus, elements from atmosphere” means focussing on one’s inner awareness of the
consciousness research are unin- un-focused. At the moment of such awareness, to apply the
tentionally present in the everyday gestalt-psychological distinction between figure and ground,
mention or explicit evaluation of
what was perceived as ground “now becomes figure”. 3 This
“atmosphere” — of which Jaspers,
following directly on the above does not however alter the essentially background nature
quotation, has this to say: “From of the perception of which we have now become aware. 4
the brightly lit centre of conscious- A recourse to the word “atmosphere” usually occurs when
ness there is a general shadowing
there is a desire to put the global experience of the sur-
down to the obscure area where no
clear demarcation remains between roundings into words. One says that a landscape has such
consciousness and the unconscious. and such an atmosphere. The concept of “mood” is used
Trained self-observation makes it in an analogue fashion, as in the above quotation from
possible to investigate the degrees of Jaspers where he enlarges on the atmospheric quality of
consciousness ( = degree of atten-
tion, the level of awareness).” Jaspers
consciousness. However, “mood” is often used to describe
1997, p. 139. people’s underlying mental state, aside from any current
external impressions. As the psychologist Theodore Lipps
emphasised in the first volume of his “Ästhetik” in 1903,
5 Lipps 1903, p. 222. moods or “mood feelings” are “not this or that experience,
image, or thought” but the “general form of current mental
6 Henckmann 2007, p. 48. life”. 5 Faced with the difficulty of pinning down “moods”,
the philosopher Wolfhart Henckman recently concluded in a
7 Ewert 1965, p. 230. similar vein that it would perhaps come closest to “say that
they modulate the vital sense that impacts on the entire
8 Ibid., p. 231. organism”.6 Otto Ewert, in his 1965 article for the Handbuch
der Psychologie (handbook of psychology) entitled “Stim-

142
mungen und Gefühle” (moods and feelings), forged a link to 9 Morris 1989, p. vii.
the gestalt-psychological term “ground”: “In descriptions of
experience, moods are described as atmospherically diffuse
and unstructured. They form, as a kind of permanent filter 10 Ibid.
on the field of experience, the “ground” from which other
types of experience emerge, more or less sharply delineated, 11 Ibid., p. 8 f. Morris distinguishes
as “figure”. 7 According to Ewert, a “rooting of moods in the between “mood as ground” and
“mood as figure”: “A central premise
total vital constitution of an organism appears to be very
of this monograph is that the way in
probable”. 8 In his book “Mood: the frame of mind”, the psy- which mood affects us depends fun-
chologist William Morris formulates it as follows: moods damentally on the degree to which it
are “pervasive and global”,9 “influencing a broad range of is in or out of focal attention. When
not in focal attention, mood has the
thought processes and behaviour”; 10 he also builds on the
characteristics of ground; it is the
terms “figure” and “ground” from perception psychology. 11 formless backdrop against which we
Finally, mention should be made of a contribution from experience events. […] On the other
Norbert Schwarz in the field of experimental psychology. In hand, a given mood may enter focal
attention, either because it intensi-
his post-doctoral thesis, “Stimmung als Information” (mood
fies, or because other demands on
as information), he defines the concept of “mood” by refer- attention are relaxed, or because
ring back to awareness of atmospheric phenomena in the some event causes us to introspect.
narrow sense (good weather): Upon entering focal attention, mood
“What ‘mood’ should be understood to mean is — in accor- rapidly acquires the characteristics of
a figure or thing. It takes on a specific
dance with the everyday use of the word— the current, sub- form in that we may label the feeling
jective state of mind that can be described along the axis of and thereby partially understand
wellbeing–discomfort. A prototypical example might be the or explain it.” But neither focused
heightened sensitivities sometimes experienced on sunny mood nor focused perception of the
atmosphere escapes the paradox
(in comparison to rainy) days. Moods are in this sense atmo-
addressed in the text and in note 4
spherically diffuse, unstructured experiences of a situation (ground as figure).— Thayer (1989,
[…]. In contrast to more intense sensations, referred to here as p. 168–170) focuses on the difficulty
‘emotion’, moods are not directed towards a specific object. of self-observation of moods.
[…] With moods in this sense, in contrast to feelings, the
cause of the mood is not necessarily the focus of attention.”12 12 Schwarz 1987, p. 2.
Once one realises that the atmosphere metaphor entails
a specific form of attention, then equating perception of 13 Perception of body expression is
(body) expressions with “atmosphere”, as is now widespread, accompanied by (at least a central
nervous) tendency to movement—it
appears questionable: neither focussed perception of other
is experienced “in the flesh”, as it
people’s emotions— expressed through mimic, attitude and were. Therefore, contrary to what
sounds—nor perception of expression related to forms, move- adherents of the “new aesthetics”
ments and sounds of things, of itself conveys “atmosphere” often claim, the fact that one’s body
(the lived body, or German “Leib“)
or “mood”.13
is involved in perception is by no
means a peculiarity of atmosphere
perception; the question is rather
“the puLse of Life fiLLiNg the LaNdscape” how differently the body is affected
as compared with focused percep-
Referring to “moods in nature”, that is “the mood, for instance,
tion of expression.
that a landscape evokes for me”, Lipps wrote:

143
“The carriers of such moods are […] in particular air, light,
14 Lipps 1903, p. 222. Italicized shade, darkness, warmth, coolness, clouds, water. This is
passages spaced out in the original understandable when we consider why we value such natural
German.
elements: not, or at least not solely because they support
specific vital functions, but rather for their general invigorat-
15 Lipps 1906, p. 189. ing effect—enhancing my total life activity by invigorating,
accelerating, relieving and liberating; or calming, restraining,
16 Cf. the emphatic formulations of exciting and releasing. What we have here is not a collection
Lipps and Robert Vischer: “As with of individual experiences and contexts, but rather a mood
the spiritual in man, the ‘mood’
[…]. This mood is within me; it is my mood. But it stems from
of a space is not reducible to the
individual visible forms. Rather, the nature where these vital elements preside and govern. And
latter are intensified by the infinitely so it appears that the mood resides in nature […].” 14
varied and inexpressible interweav- The mood bearers that Lipps enumerates are phenomena that
ing of forces through the space,
are predominantly “atmospheric” in the narrow sense—they
especially the delicate weaving to
and fro of light.” Lipps 1906, p. 189. literally “lie in the air”. Consequently, in the second volume of
“The translucent atmosphere con- his Ästhetik (“Die ästhetische Betrachtung und die bildende
nects us in the most fragile yet Kunst” (Aesthetic analysis and the creative arts)) when he
most universal way with the whole
turns to the depiction of the “soul of a place” in painting,
world, expanding our sense of reach
and freedom. […] But it can not be he has this to say: “Everything that animates a space—the
emphasised strongly enough that it light, the air, the atmosphere—is the specific substrate of
is the light permeating the ubiqui- this mood.” 15 In this context it should be emphasised that it
tous mass of air […] that is respon- is as qualities of the medium air that light and shadow make
sible for the most significant portion
of this releasing and universalising
their impression — unless viewed individually as illuminated
effect of air. What we see of the air surfaces or light sources.16 According to Lipps, the mood that
itself is only the extremely fine fabric “air, light, shade, darkness, warmth, coolness, clouds, water“
of vapour, translucent and effer- convey results from the way these phenomena influence
vescent, of which it is composed.”
how vibrant we feel. For someone who leaves their workplace
Vischer 1927 (original 1893), p. 71.
Further confirmation may be found for a walk in the park, for instance, their increased vitality
in the more matter-of-fact observa- seems to flow from the surroundings. It appears, as Lipps
tions of Buhler (1922) and Katz (1930) argues, that the mood, that is the degree of vibrancy which
on the perception of illumination.
is now felt, is a quality that forms part of the surroundings.
He stresses that the mood of the landscape is “not linked
to anything particular, especially not a particular form, or
17 Lipps 1903, p. 222. any specific activities”.17 It is also not an amalgamation of
individual elements that is effective, rather “something that
is also different from this whole and that envelops and swirls
18 Ibid., p. 222 f. about this whole in an intangible way”.18 And further:
“I can […] talk about this ‘something’ in general terms. I call
the mood happy, melancholic, cheerful, serious, dark and
so forth. But I cannot grasp this something, nor analyse or
define it. It only exists for me in the form of a feeling and
the accompanying awareness of something universal that
presides in this perceived totality, but still unnameable and

144
indeterminate, not related to something or other living in
the landscape but rather to the general pulse of life filling 19 Lipps 1903, p. 223.
the landscape.” 19
Even if one agrees with Lipps that the “mood of the land-
scape” relates to an overall impression, one can still question
the posited non-determinability. Since differentiated ways
of describing the “pulse of life” of a landscape are possible,
indeed practically unavoidable, I would claim on this score
that it is indeed possible to analyse the airy essence of natural
moods, at least to a certain degree. Indeed Lipps himself is
not averse to determining the supposedly indeterminable
when he discusses how specific painting styles can depict
the “soul of a place”.20 Succesful interventions by designers 20 Lipps 1906, pp. 189-204
also testify to the existence of definable reference points in
regard to, for example, the solemnity or cheerfulness of a
landscape (see below).
According to the argument we have outlined above, the
landscape “lives” because its tangible physical qualities not
only provoke specific biological effects but also influence
vital feelings and thus the general well-being of the human
organism—and also because this effect is quite naturally
perceived as emanating from the natural spirits that populate
the surroundings. Viewed in this light, the impression of the
“pulse of life” of a place exists independently of whether,
objectively speaking, life exists there or not. This does not
rule out, however, the significant contribution that vegetable
and animal life can make to the atmospheric mood.

“atmospheric mood” aNd “seNsotoNus”


The importance of physical properties of the air for people’s
state of mind is a central theme in Willy Hellpach’s book “Geo-
psyche”21, first published in 1911, as well as in other writings of 21 Hellpach 1977, 1. Edition 1911.
this psychologist—acknowledged to be a pioneer of modern
environmental psychology. Hellpach differentiates between
the “tonic” effects of physical conditions on a state of mind,
where there is no clearly discernible path via the senses, and
those in which the senses are recognisably involved. As far as
the “effects on our senses” are obviously responsible for the
“kind and […] degree of tension or relaxation of vital function”,
Hellpach spoke of the “sensotonus of the organism”.22 Both
“tonic” and “sensutonic” contributions from the effects of
air would today be referred to as “bio weather”.

145
Hellpach sees the “atmospheric mood” as primarily deter-
mined by the “weather picture, the totality of which then
22 Hellpach 1946, p. 63. passes fluidly into the ‘landscape’, whose presentation itself
changes according to the differing weather conditions”.23 The
23 Ibid.; italic passages in the origi- type of lighting and the experience of colour, also affected by
nal are spaced. the lighting conditions (“light-dependent chromaesthesis”24),
are according to his assessment the outstanding factors of
24 Ibid. the visual contribution to “atmospheric mood”. Hellpach
mentions the stimulating role of red and yellow tones: “that
25 Ibid. in untrammelled nature are favourably balanced by their
‘adversaries’ green and blue (vegetation and clear sky), in
26 Hellpach 1946, p. 63f. the sense of a pronounced psychical calming effect”.25 The
combination of “gold-yellow of sunlight and the green-blue
27 “Today we know for example of the landscape and sky” communicate “that unique ‘expe-
that important nerve pathways rience of well-being’” 26 that can accompany a sojourn in
lead from the eye to those parts
the countryside in fine weather. Hellpach notes that, from
of the brain where this ‘tonus’,
this vital and active energy, has a neurological standpoint, the sensutonic effect of lighting
its principal substantial basis, and colour results from the connection of the eye with the
its ‘localisation’, its ‘centres’ (this evolutionary older central and basal areas of the brain.27
is primarily the so-called brain
Hellpach goes on to note that skin sensory impressions28 as
stem, the diencephalon down to
the medulla oblongata […]).” Ibid. well as hearing and smell contribute to the “atmospheric
For the subsequent discussion on mood”— how the “whole habitus of nature” is experienced.
fundamental neural activation He emphasises that people become “significantly revitalised
in environmental psychology, see
by pleasant sounds” 29. In this regard, as Hellpach vividly
Küller 1991.
outlines, the invigorating sense of vitality imparted by the
environment stems not least from the actual living expres-
28 “[…] Even the sensory skin func- sions of flora and fauna: “I can recall the treetops weaving
tions can be significantly involved: in the forest, the gentle sound of a stream, the murmuring
Wind types (“May Breezes”, the
of a source; but also the humming of the bees, the chirping
storm on a lake), or the warmth of
the air (e.g. over the heath, on an of the crickets, and, above all, the dawn chorus […].” 30 He
early spring or late autumn day), the continues: “Romantic poetry, characterised as it is by a quiet
‘softness’ or ‘harshness’ of the air, instinct for the vernacular, grants pride of place to these
every quality of the air that we have
acoustic elements of the natural mood as they sing, chant
come to recognise […] and that helps
create the ‘atmospheric mood’ […].” and trill, whisper and rustle, weave and murmur, trickle
Hellpach 1977, p. 168. and hum throughout every verse.” 31 And in the contribu-
tion that, according to Hellpach, our sense of smell makes
to the “natural mood”, it is predominantly —from the scent
29 Hellpach 1946, p. 64. of flowers to the smell of foliage—the life cycle of vegeta-
tion that is present.
30 Ibid. Hellpach extends Lipps’ perspective on landscape mood in two
respects. For one, he makes it clear that the impression that
31 Ibid. one is feeling “the pulse of life filling the landscape” is in large
measure not merely a projection but actually stems from a

146
(pleasurable) awareness of the presence of animal and vegetable
life. Secondly, with the concept of “sensotonus”, Hellpach points
toward a psycho-physiological analysis of “mood”.

eNviroNmeNtaL psychoLogy aNd “atmosphere”


How does the contemporary academic discipline of psychol-
ogy view “atmosphere”? Apart from the occasional mention
in psychological work in an everyday language sense, can
we find any theoretical or empirical studies on the subject?
Have there been any attempts to measure “atmosphere”?
Research explicitly focussing on “atmosphere” is rare in
recent psychology. It has seldom been regarded as a source
for rewarding work. This even applies to the field of environ-
mental psychology: i.e. the sub-discipline dealing with how
people relate to their environment, posing such questions
as what, for example, they appreciate in a landscape.
At the beginning of the 1970s the social psychologist Stanley
Milgram—known on account of his electric-shock experi-
ments — had begun considering how “urban atmosphere”
could be rendered measurable (“[…] to suggest how phe-
nomena such as ‘urban atmosphere’ can be pinned down
through techniques of measurement”). 32 Besides the obser- 32 Milgram, 1974, p. 199.
vation of walking speed or the behaviour of drivers at traffic
lights, he also considered “visual components”—such as the
layout of streets — as possible indicators for a quantitative
differentiation of what “lies in the air” of New York, Lon-
don or Paris. The role of population density and popula-
tion structure as well as historical differences in attitudes
were also considered. Comparative studies of the pace of
life (measured by, among other things, the walking pace of
passers-by) have since experienced a certain revival,33 but the 33 Levine provides an overview
question of how rigorously they might serve to measure the (1998). Cf. Levine & Norenzayan 1999.
“atmosphere” of a city has, unless I am mistaken, received
no further discussion.
In reflecting on the overall thrust of research on environ-
ment perception, William Ittelson spoke in 1973 of how an
understanding of “atmosphere” poses a challenge for psychol-
ogy — to date it has only been possible to speculate on what
it might represent; above all, one would need to consider
how profoundly situations are affected by the presence of
people in an environment:

147
“Finally, and perhaps most important of all, environments
always have an ambiance, an atmosphere, difficult to define,
but overriding in importance. One can at this point only specu-
late on some of the features of the environment which con-
tribute to this ambiance and which, thereby, become of central
significance for the study of environment perception. First of
all, environments are almost without exception encountered
as part of a social activity; other people are always a part of
the situation and environment perception is largely a social
phenomenon.”34 Ittelson, co-author of a widely read textbook
on environmental psychology (also translated into German),35
also stressed—echoing the thoughts above on “peripheral
perception”—that whoever investigates environment per-
34 Ittelson 1973, p. 15. ception, in contrast to the norm of traditional perception
psychology, also needs to explore the aspect of “peripheral
35 Ittelson et al. 1977 / 1974. See the information”: things that are not currently in the field of vision
comments on “ambience”. or at the focus of attention also have a role to play.36 As we
shall see in a moment, environmental psychologists have in
the recent past been reproached for their failure in this regard.
Occasionally “atmosphere” does appear as a key term, or as
36 “[…] that peripheral, as well as an expressly or implicitly mentioned category, for example
central, information is always pres- in the context of studies on housing experience—inves-
ent, peripheral in the mechanical
tigating the social and spatial aspects of housing 37 or of
sense— the area behind one is no less
a part of the environment than that open space in residential districts 38 (see the section on
in front—and peripheral in the sense measurement of “affective quality”)—and also in recent
of being outside the focus of atten- quantitative studies on the effects of artificial lighting on
tion. Both meanings are important
mood.39 At least in passing, I would like to mention a kind
and raise questions concerning the
processes underlying the direction of of “atmosphere diagnosis” situated in the border area of
attention.” Ittelson 1973, p. 14. applied social psychology, organisational psychology and
environmental psychology: questionnaires on “atmosphere”
37 For instance, Csikszentmihalyi in hospital stations or the “climate” prevailing in class rooms,
& Rochberg-Halton 1989; Krampen educational institutions etc. 40
1993; Pennartz 1986; Ritterfeld 1996.
Now I would like to look more closely at the work of a group
of researchers who are specifically interested in peripheral
38 Tucker Cross 2004; Tucker Cross & perception of the environment, even if they do not speak of
Küller 2004. “atmosphere” but rather of “ambient vision”. Subsequently,
I will show that even the vast majority of studies on land-
39 Vogels 2008; Custers et al. 2009. scape evaluation are not all that far removed from what
Lipps or Hellpach meant when they spoke of the “mood of
40 e.g. Moos 1974; Moos 2002; Moos the landscape” or “atmospheric mood”. With regard to the
et al. 1974. issue of how psychologists measure “affective quality”, I will
discuss a concept of “mood” that is used in marketing stud-
ies as a key for the quantitative evaluation of “atmosphere”.

148
“ambieNt visioN”
In recent years the Japanese architect Ryuzo Ohno and his
team have taken the contributions of William Ittelson 41 as 41 It is thanks to this reference that
their starting point for their own research in environmental I finally read this oft quoted essay by
Ittelson (1973).
psychology. Their frequent critical references make clear that
they believe this psychology has failed in its essential task,
namely to investigate not only the perception of discrete
objects but also to examine how the surrounding environ- 42 Ohno 2000; Inagami et al. 2008;
ment is apprehended. 42 Inagami & Ohno 2010.
Through his engagement with the perception of surfaces and
textures (in contrast to the perception of objects or forms), 43 For the corresponding literature
Ohno arrived at a concept of “ambient vision”. In so doing he see Ohno 2000.
has drawn on the “ecological approach to perception psychol-
ogy” of James Gibson, as well as on other psychological and 44 Ibid., p. 151.
physiological models. These approaches suggest that a visual
subsystem, in order to quickly grasp the global situation, 45 Ibid., p. 152.
relies on “parallel processing”—unlike the relatively time-
consuming serial information processing of focal vision. 43 46 Ibid., p. 151.
In contrast to “focal vision”, “ambient vision”, in addition to
its speed (“almost instantaneously” 44), is characterised by a 47 Ibid.
certain superficiality (“limited information per area of the
visual field” 45) as well as by its “preattentive” character 46). It 48 Ibid., p. 152.
communicates a “feeling”47 rather than an “understanding”.48
This visual subsystem has evolved in order to, on the one hand, 49 Ohno does not limit the concept
securely guide the movement of the organism—more or less of ambient perception to vision:
“Finally, I would like to draw
mutely— and on the other, to function as an early warning
attention to ambient information
system. Peripheral apprehension of the environment is the unconsciously received by nonvisual
essential precondition for a subsequent attentive, directed senses.” Ohno 2000, p. 155.
apprehension of individual objects. Ohno has illustrated the
difference between the two types of vision with the help of
a diagram (Fig. 1). 49
More recently, Ohno and colleagues have studied ambient focal vision
vision in the special case of peripheral awareness of how ambient vision
narrow or wide the entire surroundings are while in motion:
experimental subjects walking along a predetermined path,
actually or in virtual reality, were asked to indicate the cur-
rently perceived “pressure” of the environment by moving
a knob or slider. 50 These values were compared with the
visual situation in the subjects’ current field of view (calcu-
lated by a computer model of the viewing conditions) and Fig. 1 Ohno’s comparison of
with a calculation of the possible visual range in relation “focal vision” and “ambient vision”.
Diagram: Ohno, 2000.
to their current 360° surroundings. This demonstrated that
the potential field of vision behind a person’s back signifi-

149
cantly affects the sense of space (i.e. sense of “pressure”)
50 Inagami et al. 2008; Inagami & experienced during the actual exercise (in contrary to the
Ohno 2010. VR-setting). The authors view their results as confirming the
assumption that non-focused areas of the environment also
contribute to the current awareness of a space. They asso-
51 While not wishing to discuss ciate—non-verbally measured 51 —bodily awareness of the
the experimental procedures here relative openness of particular situations with the existential
in detail, I would, however, like to
significance of freedom of movement (escape routes). But
make the following comment: What
the publications unfortunately do this explanation remains speculative. In fact, it is question-
not make clear is whether the rotary able to equate the potential all-round range of vision with
knobs or sliders were meant to be the potential danger posed by restricted freedom of move-
operated against a pressure that
ment: for one thing, visibility conditions and trajectories do
grew proportionally with the indicat-
ed values, or if the pointer position not necessarily coincide; and, furthermore, a barrier need
only represented an analogue to the not necessarily be perceived as a threatening restriction: it
perceived pressure of the surround- can also serve to “cover one’s back”, so to speak. 52 Let us note
ings.
that the concept of “ambient vision”, as well as its imple-
mentation in the experiments on sensitivity to pressure,
52 See for example Camillo Sitte’s relate to what Lipps and Hellpach observed in relation to the
(1909) analysis of public squares, experience of landscape moods: a non-focused perception
Appleton’s (1975) observations on
of the environment that is reflected in bodily sensation. The
the experience of landscape, or the
experimental studies reported by peripheral nature of “ambient vision” also corresponds with
Stamps (2005). the metaphoric use of “atmosphere” in Jaspers. However,
there remains a certain discrepancy with what is evoked by
the expression “pulse of life filling the landscape”. I would
like to take a closer look at this difference and also take the
opportunity to examine whether the so-called “character”
of an environment can be separated from what is termed
its “atmosphere”.
53 In his exploration of “lived space”,
Karlfried Graf Dürckheim (1930, p.
412) speaks of freedom of movement digressioN: freedom of movemeNt aNd vitaL
as a facet of the “vital quality” of quaLity, “character” aNd “atmosphere”
a situation. Dürckheim’s essay is
stimulating in its diversity but also Natural or human-made features on the earth’s surface that
confusing due to its lack of precision. determine visibility or freedom of movement (rock faces or
house walls, bodies of water, dense vegetation) certainly con-
54 For Lynch (1981), for example, tribute to the quality of life of a location;53 not least because
“safety” represents a key factor in visual and locomotive accessibility contribute, in one way
the “vitality” of an environment.
or another, to a sense of security or endangerment.54 Since
55 In this respect, it would seem they can, among other things, facilitate or hinder visibility
inadvisable to equate the “vital and freedom of movement, different topographies—more
qualities” of a place with its “vital
or less open or closed situations—may engender a tense or
tone”, as Dürckheim does. Dürck-
heim1930, p. 412. a relaxed mood. With “open vs. closed” or “narrow vs. wide”,
however, a discernable “vital quality” is not accompanied

150
by a sense that the surroundings are themselves alive and
flowing towards one55 — when surrounded, as in the scenario 56 Cf. Dürckheim’s concept of
described by Hellpach, by invigorating air and light, lush “position quality” as a facet of the
“essence space” (ibid., p. 442 f); how-
vegetation (leaving aside its role in freedom of vision and
ever, he also includes such abstract
movement) or scenic soundscapes. This notwithstanding qualities as “inviting” or “unwelcom-
the fact that one does indeed talk of a space that “opens ing” in the “position”.
itself up” or “closes itself off”, of “sheltering” or “exposing”
locations: opening or closing as “behaviour toward” (sug- 57 In Dürckheim’s terminology,
gesting that in this regard perception also works in an ani- what we are dealing with here is the
“intrinsic character” of the “essence
mistic— ensouling—fashion).56
space”. Ibid.
There is, however, one aspect of topography to which one
regularly ascribes a “pulse of life”: plains, hills or mountain
landscapes where (preattentive) perception engenders dif- 58 Seel does not follow his own dis-
fering degrees of “arousal” in the passer-by, depending on tinction (1991, p. 100 f) consistently
(e.g. p. 93). In “Genius loci”, Norberg-
the quality of rhythm discerned in their solid contours. Here,
Schulz uses the terms “character”
“tranquility” or “animation” of the earth’s surface corre- and “atmosphere” as synonyms, dif-
sponds, as an overall impression, to the physiognomic (i.e. ferentiating them from an objective
related to the expression) aspect of focussed object percep- observation of topography: “While
‘space’ denotes the three-dimension-
tion. 57 However, it does not coincide with the perception of
al organisation of elements consti-
expression in individual objects. This movement in resonace tuting a place, ‘character’ identifies
with what, in the case of “ambient vision”, appears as physi- the general atmosphere, i.e. the
cal behaviour of the landscape (tranquil versus animated) most comprehensive quality of each
place.” Norberg-Schulz 1982, p. 11.
remains abstract as compared with the possibilities of empa-
In his revision of the “Phänomenolo-
thy with the expression of a particular object. gie des Genius loci” (phenomenology
The mood that emanates from a landscape depends—in of the genius loci), Valena (1994, P.
varying ways—on how open or animated it is. However, 28-67) lists “surface relief” (topog-
during the course of a year, the same location is host to dif- raphy) “water”, “vegetation”, the
“atmospheric“ (in the narrower
ferent moods or “atmospheres” depending on a variety of sense) as well as other factors; how-
factors such as changes in vegetation, differences in light ever, similar to Norberg-Schulz, he
and the movement of air depending on the time of day and does not differentiate “atmosphere”
the season, as well as the varying weather conditions. There from “character”: “Here, atmospheric
means the sky, the light and all the
is a certain logic, therefore, in differentiating the impres-
other climatic factors as well as the
sion made by topography as a (lasting) “character of the related daily and seasonal changes.
landscape” from the (temporary) “atmosphere”—albeit Most of these factors have regional
challenging to find a suitable linguistic regulation in the validity—so strictly speaking are not
tied to a particular location. Despite
face of such rich association-networks as those associated
this ‘universality’, atmosphere is one
with “character” and “atmosphere”.58 of most effective elements of local
The topography (e.g. gorge versus plain)—as well as the character. […] Atmospheric phenom-
vegetation (e.g. dense forest versus grove or clearing)— also ena are often concentrated to such
a pitch that the resulting moods are
affects the local lighting conditions, the ambient light, whose
experienced as a living expression of
determining contribution to the “atmospheric mood” is fre- the spirit of the place.” Valena 1994,
quently highlighted.59 What about that most important of p. 43.
mood factors, “light”? Does it have a “life of its own”?60 Light,

151
as everybody knows, animates the human spirit (as well as
59 In addition to the quotations those of other animals and of plants). In contrast to how a
already mentioned of Lipps, Vischer person’s own mood can reflect the tranquillity or animation
and Hellpach, see for example
of the earth’s surface, the effect of light is not experienced
Norberg-Schulz 1982, p. 14 and Valena
1994, p. 43. as a form of empathy with its “expression”, i.e. similar to
how empathy with other people reflects their physically
60 In Dürckheim, “light” and “dark- expressed feelings.61 We experience the unison of light or
ness” illustrate the emotional quali- darkness with (positive or negative) mood directly: the sun
ties that he introduces as the third
“smiles”—even though light does not resemble an expres-
component of the physiognomically
perceived essence space—while not sion.62 Seeing that people are inclined to perceive things
denying the potency of the other two animistically (to imbue what surrounds them with a soul),
qualities: position and character. light appears to them on account of the mood it releases
Dürckheim 1930, p. 442. According to
as the veritable spirit of life.
recent experimental findings, chang-
es in illumination of a given space
also affect its perceived spaciousness
(and so probably also the feeling of eNviroNmeNtaL psychoLogy—routiNe i:
pressure—in the sense employed by attractive, soothiNg, iNvigoratiNg “greeN” etc.
Ohno): with less light, an otherwise
unchanged space appears less spa- In the course of numerous studies, environmental psychol-
cious. (Stamps 2010.) ogist have examined the relative attractiveness of urban
settings containing vegetation, especially trees, as against
61 Seel (1991, p. 99) therefore speaks those with little or no vegetation. Whether the respondents
of “expressive physiognomy in the were actually on the spot, or had only photos or videos to
broader sense” in relation to the
look at, results show that the overwhelming preference is
emotional qualities of light and
colour. for settings containing “green”.63
What does all this have to do with “atmosphere”? These ques-
62 According to Hellpach, the direct tionnaires were not intended to elicit evaluations of indi-
effect of light on basal brain arousal vidual objects: the evaluations are “general” in nature—the
systems is likely answerable for the
amount of green in an environment is evident at first glance.
mood effect of light. If one were
looking for a biological mechanism Seeing as how such studies involve an evaluation of milieus,
for this effect then an “awakening without it being the express intention the focus is on “ambi-
of vital energy” (for activities pos- ent vision”—even if requiring an aesthetic evaluation runs
sible in light) would seem plausible.
counter to peripheral perception. It would seem reasonable
It is well know that a lack of light
dampens mood (dissipates energy to assume that for the surveys, most of which use photos, it
and drive), quite apart from a fear of is mood memories of comparable real situations that play a
dangers lurking in the dark. decisive role in the evaluation.
However, the effect of vegetation in the surroundings has
63 For an overview see Ulrich (1993); often been studied without provoking aesthetic judge-
Flade (2010); cf. also Tessin (2008). ments and attentiveness: when subject to stress, test per-
A remarkable finding is that for
sons seem to recuperate faster when presented with (real
architects and designers, in contrast
to non-professionals, “natural ele- or media-based) “green” scenes. This emerges from surveys
ments” are not a priority (Pennartz that queried well-being, performance (e.g. the success-rate
& Elsinga 1990, who quote a further when proofreading) and physiological values (e.g. blood pres-
study).
sure, heart rate, skin-impedance); even virtual vegetation

152
appears to lead to a measurable calming, or an accelerated
regeneration of (mental) vigour.
The fact that a half-hour visit to the park can improve con-
centration upon return to work has prompted American
environmental psychologists to trace the effect of time spent
in a natural setting to the way it challenges the attention.
The so-called “attention restoration theory”64 postulates that 64 Kaplan 1995.
people in (secure) natural environments experience relief
from the effort of directed attention since the “fascinating”
environment draws attention to itself involuntarily. They
are referring back to a distinction that William James first
made in his classic book, “The Principles of Psychology”. As
James argued, involuntary attention is what ensues when,
for example, you unexpectedly encounter a wild animal.65 65 James 1950, original 1890.
However, to equate this with the salutary mental stimulation
of a visit to the park was not what was intended with the
concept of “attention restoration”. What one had in mind
was relaxed attention. Therefore some time after the first
formulation of the theory, “fascination” became “soft fascina-
tion”, a term with a somewhat different accentuation. The
authors illustrate what they mean with the contemplation of
foliage, flowing waters, moving clouds or snow flakes etc.66 66 Kaplan et al. 1998.
An Italian team67 investigated eye movements when view-
ing photos with green or non-green scenery (“high fascina- 67 Berto et al. 2007.
tion photographs” vs. “low fascination photographs”), for
example a landscape of lakes with groups of trees versus a
dreary warehouse ambience. In the case of attractive natural
scenes, a significantly reduced duration of fixations was
observed. Berto and colleagues interpreted this in terms
of “soft fascination”:
“Thus, the viewing pattern for the high fascination pho-
tographs is consistent with Kaplan’s definition of ‘soft fas-
cination’ in that participants scanned the nature scenes
broadly, but did not study carefully any particular aspects.
Attention restoration theory 68 states that in attending to 68 Kaplan 1995.
restorative environments, people can be attracted to interest-
ing, fascinating patterns. While this might appear to require
directed attention, our eye movement data suggest a dif-
ferent explanation. The number of fixations is lower in the
nature scenes, indicating that people do not pause long to
study these attractive features, but continue viewing other
aspects of the scene. These are not distractions that need
to be inhibited, but rather simply aspects of the scene to be

153
viewed. This may explain why nature scenes are relatively
69 Berto et al. 2007, p. 290. Please more restorative. The inhibitory system is not engaged dur-
note: “An observation of the same ing the viewing of nature scenes, instead, people shift easily
point that lasted at least 150 ms was
from one feature to another, as would be expected if the
considered a fixation.” (p. 288)
scenes activate ‘soft fascination’.” 69

With nature scenes it is more a case of a broad attention to


the environment than a focused perception of individual
objects. In other words: if you view images depicting vegeta-
tion (and water), relaxed peripheral attention apparently
occurs more easily than is the case with unsightly views
of factories or storehouses: “soft fascination” => “ambient
vision” > “focal vision”. In terms of Jasper’s metaphorical use
of “atmosphere”: “soft fascination” is synonymous with an
increase in atmospheric consciousness at the expense of
concentrated perception.
Alongside vegetation, water also played a role in the more
appealing templates of the study just quoted. Although
water may not figure as frequently as trees and other foli-
age as an object of research, environmental psychology also
70 See e.g. the overview in Ulrich regularly examines this form of landscape attraction.70 In a
(1993) and Flade (2010). study specifically designed to compare the attractiveness
of vegetation, water and buildings,71 it was demonstrated
71 White et al. 2010. that an increase in the relative share of water can make
nature scenes more attractive—provided the adjoining land
remained visible; where water was lacking, attractiveness
increased in proportion to the amount of “green” relative
to buildings. However, even built-up environments lacking
vegetation proved equally attractive as natural situations,
as long as at least some water was present. White and col-
leagues attribute the attractiveness of water to a number
of factors: how it reflects light; to the way images of water
evoke its sound; to the noises one imagines of animals living
in its vicinity; and, finally, to the memories of how relaxing
bathing in this medium can be. In terms of peripheral appre-
hension of the “pulse of life” of a landscape, this would imply:
water movement is an expression, both visual and aural, of
the innate life of this element (doing much to make light
appear alive); water is an implicit token of the animal life
it sustains; thanks to its immersive and buoyant qualities,
water instils a (pleasant) bodily sensation, even a feeling of
security, that is readily apostrophised as bordering on the
“symbiotic”. Furthermore, other environmental psycholo-

154
gists have frequently postulated that bodies of water are
appealing since they not only constitute an indispensable
resource for the human organism, but they are also a pre-
condition for the flourishing of flora and fauna, which in
turn sustain human life.

“[…] images coNtaiNiNg peopLe were, overaLL,


rated more positiveLy thaN oNes without […]”

In their study on the role that “blue space” plays in evaluat-


ing natural and built-up settings, there was one result that
White et al. (2010) did not expect—at first glance perhaps a
surprising aspect of the vital quality of the environment, but
one that is familiar from everyday experience:
“[…] although we had no specific hypothesis regarding image
content, images containing People were, overall, rated more
positively than ones without. This may offer support for the
notion that the presence of others can aid restoration […]
as long as they are non threatening […]. These results also
suggest that earlier studies which included people in urban
but not natural settings […] may have underestimated the
relative positivity of natural environments by only includ- 72 Ibid., p. 490; in the original
ing people in urban scenes. Future research may want to one finds the unusual uppercase
“People”— an indicator, apparently,
explore scene content even more systematically than we
of a category label.
were able to do here by expanding the number of examples
in specific categories.” 72

The presence in an urban setting or nature scene of other


people, such as passers-by, alters the perception of the place.
Should one therefore follow the authors’ proposal to elimi-
nate, as it were, the presence of people to preserve the equal
methodological treatment of natural and urban scenes?
This would almost certainly be counter-productive, as the
absence of people in urban situations runs contrary to what
cities are all about. Thus, unlike the view of a deserted park
landscape, deserted streets and squares are by definition
vaguely sinister. People are a natural element that—unlike
trees—are what defines a city. In a double sense, people
constitute the “nature of a city”. The unique features of
public life in this or that city—the “life pulse” discernible in
human activity—are therefore likely to be a primary source
of its specific “urban atmosphere”. 73

155
The question as to what conditions are responsible for more or
less vitality in streets and squares is a traditional one in urban
design theory. It is a central theme of Camillo Sitte’s “Der
73 See Milgram’s (1974) observa- Städtbau nach seinen künstlerischen Grundsätzen” 74— still
tions on the measurement of “urban fresh even after 100 years—of Cullen’s “Townscape”,75 and
atmosphere”, already mentioned
also of “Pattern Language” by Christopher Alexander et al.76
above; see also Chapter 9 in Ittelson
et al. 1977/1974. It is also present in Lynch’s “Image of the City”,77 even if it
is obscured by the question of orientation; and the title of
74 Sitte 1909. Gehl’s book, “Life between buildings”,78 is plainly indicative
of its concerns.
75 Cullen 1961. However, as landscape designers are aware,79 the presence of
people (neither hostile nor panic stricken) can also enhance
76 Alexander et al. 1995. a natural setting;80 perhaps not least because the mere pres-
ence of others is proof of the quality of life of a place—the
77 Lynch 1960. logic being that “were this not a good place to come to, you
wouldn’t find other people here”. Additionally, manifesta-
78 Gehl 1987; Danish original 1980. tions of life—movements, sounds—contribute to the “pulse
of life ” of a place. In his “Theory of Garden Art”,81 Hirschfeld
79 See the section entitled “Selling even then linked the movement of other people with that of
design atmospherically”. water— as something that “announces some form of life”.82
Finally, many eyes and ears increase peripheral monitoring
80 Cf. William Ittelson’s intuition, of the scene, which—again registered on the periphery—is
also mentioned above, that the likely to encourage a relaxing visit.83
“human factor” is primarily respon-
sible for the “atmosphere” of an
environment. .
eNviroNmeNtaL psychoLogy — routiNe ii:
the measuremeNt of “affective quaLity”
81 Hirschfeld 1779, p. 171.
When environmental psychologists examine the attractive-
82 I was alerted to the passage ness or the restorative effect of different types of location,
containing the quote by a work of they regularly query the mood component of the scenes they
Linda Parshall’s (2003); Parshall also
are investigating. More precisely: environmental psycholo-
translated into English and pub-
lished a selection taken from the gists routinely measure mood.84
five volumes of Hirschfeld (1779-1785) The psychologists’ mood barometer is a questionnaire
(Hirschfeld 2001). containing adjectives that are to be assigned an intensity
score —for example: “lively” — and beside it a multi-level
83 Jacobs 1976. scale of “1 = does not apply at all” to “8 = applies exactly”.
The selection of adjectives and the number of levels vary.
84 Cf. Flade 2008. Adjectives are often presented as opposed pairs (“lively” vs.
“dead”), which are then required to be assessed complemen-
tarily: from a neutral point in the middle, the scale increases
towards both poles (for example: “lively 3-2-1-0-1-2-3 dead”).
What is “somewhat lively” cannot, in the logic of such polari-
ties, also be literally “somewhat dead”, as could be the result

156
in the case of a “single-pole” question format (“lively 1-8”;
“dead 1-8”). 85 The model for such bipolar surveys is Osgood’s
“semantic differential”. 86 85 Faced with such polarities, the
When performing statistical evaluation (with the help of requirement to adhere to the speci-
fied semantic order (“lively 3-2-1-0-1-2
so-called “factors analysis”) of surveys in the format of the
-3 dead”) can only be avoided by opt-
semantic differential, it seemed advisable to place adjectives ing for the neutral centre.
suitable for describing emotions or moods (of the different
languages surveyed) in a three-dimensional structure. Here
they could be allocated a position according to the measure 86 Osgood et al. 1957.
of the (positive or negative) evaluation, the degree of (high
or low) activity, and finally the (greater or lesser) potency.87 87 Ibid. In a detour via a work of
However, in the 1960s and 1970s environmental psychologists Ertel’s (1969), Gernot Böhme and one
of his pupils have also followed the
increasingly expressed doubt that these three dimensions
thread of the semantic differential.
were suited to the task at hand. An opportunity thus pre- (Hauskeller 1995, p. 146 f).
sented itself which was grasped by James A. Russell, Law-
rence M. Ward and Geraldine Pratt for a study published
in 1981. This was not a comparison of particular types of
environment, but rather a compilation of a list of affective
qualities significant for environmental psychology, and the
question whether—aside from type of environment—the
queried attribution of affective qualities fitted into the three
dimensions of evaluation, activity and potency.88 A look into 88 The authors used Pleasure
this much-cited article is enlightening. (instead of evaluation), Arousal
(instead of activity) and Dominance
In order to investigate the “affective qualities” of “molar
(instead of potency) as labels.
environments” (spatial constellations), Russell et al. initially
chose adjectives from previous studies which, according to 89 “Adjectives were selected that
their assessment, clearly exhibited affective aspects (com- were judged by at least two of the
authors to have a clear affective
pared with neutral descriptions89). Furthermore, they showed
meaning, but little or no perceptual/
slides of various situations to a number of their students, cognitive meaning relevant to the
who were then asked to assign freely chosen adjectives to description of physical environ-
describe the respective mood of the environments. 90 Ulti- ments.” Russell et al. 1981, p. 265.
mately, the authors opted for a list comprising a total of
105 adjectives. 90 In the instructions to explain the
The next step was to transfer this list to a single-pole question- task it said: “‘Affective quality’ was
defined for these subjects by telling
naire with eight-stage scales. They then used this measuring
them: ‘Every place has associated
instrument to survey quite diverse (interior and exterior) with it a mood. A place can make
situations in and around Vancouver—they mostly questioned you react in an emotional way, or
people on-the-spot. Additionally, respondents rated each at least, it can create some feeling.
Some places are exciting, others
location on the basis of a questionnaire containing a total
boring; some are terrifying, others
of 18 opposed pairs in the style and with the dimensions of relaxing.’” Ibid., p. 266.
the semantic differential.
The results of this study are based on a rich collection of
environmental situations and the judgments of a diverse

157
selection of respondents. Therefore, as Russell et al. argue,
one can reveal generally valid characteristics of affective
environmental perception with the help of the correlative
structure (factors analysis) of the evaluations. In practice,
the assessment framework they use to interpret the values
of the 105 adjectives is more two than three-dimensional: a
right-angled cross from the axes “unpleasant—pleasant” 91
and “arousing/inspiring—sleepy”. 92 A third factor, “domi-
91 “unpleasant-pleasant” in Russell nance”, appears in the grouping of similar adjectives denoting
et al. 1981, p. 281. qualities between the poles “overwhelming” and “insignifi-
cant” (positively correlated primarily with: “overwhelming,
92 Ibid. “arousing-sleepy”. overpowering, frightening, powerful, majestic, fearful, scary,
terrifying, forceful, awesome, dangerous, regal, imposing,
challenging”; negatively correlated primarily with: “insignifi-
93 In the above-mentioned passage cant, powerless”). However, on grounds of weaker correlations
(Hauskeller 1995, p. 146), Gernot in comparison to the other factors, they do not consider it
Böhme and students remain com-
to have a significant enough statistical significance. They
mitted to the “dominance” dimen-
sion—consistent with their principle therefore reject the use of a potency-impotency dimension
of equating object perception, or for a description of affective qualities of environments.
figurative expression, with “mood”
or “atmosphere”.
When one recognises that “atmosphere” or “mood” are per-
ceived as “ground”, it is not surprising that the “dominance”
dimension seems to be of doubtful significance in empirical
mood analysis or the affective evaluation of environments:
unlike the case of a separate “figure” (be it a person or an
object), the question of “potency” or “impotency” seems
hardly relevant here. 93
Russell, Ward and Pratt initially populate their two-dimen-
sional structure of affective environment evaluation through
the intermediate step of building more closely related sub-
groups of adjectives (“clusters”, whose labelling can be arbi-
trary) (Fig. 2). In a further step of interpretive abstraction,
Fig. 2 On completion of the survey, a circular affect universe is created (Fig. 3) via assignment
from the 105 adjectives used to to the dimensions of arousal and pleasure.
describe the environment, 21
groups (“clusters”) were formed and
assigned to two principal compo- Following this process of statistically supported (but not com-
nents. Note: It should be pointed pelling) abstraction or interpretation, what has become hidden
out that aggregation and labelling is that the adjective “hurried” has the highest “charge” for the
of the groups is not transparent and
factor labelled “arousal”, whereas the adjective “arousing”
is likely to mask the discrepancy
mentioned in the text between the itself, i.e. the eponymous quality, is only relatively weakly cor-
statistical data and the naming of related with the other components of this factor. In other words:
the factor “arousal”. Diagram: Russell a certain—tense—form of arousal seems to be at the core of
et al. 1981, p. 277.
this factor (positively correlated primarily with, in descending

158
order, “hurried, active, hectic, lively, rushed, alive, confusing,
exciting, arousing, anxious”; negatively correlated primar-
ily with, in descending order “slow, tranquil, peaceful, calm,
placid, restful, dead, lifeless, serene, sleepy, lazy, relaxing”).
Given the “arousing” constituents of this factor, association
with a particular type of environment situation suggests
itself: urban situations full of tense activity.
Wilhelm Wundt developed a three-dimensional model of
the emotions which envisaged the polarity of tension and
relaxation as being relatively independent of the dimensions Fig. 3 “Proposed Two-Dimensional
“pleasure-displeasure” and “arousal-calm” (see Fig. 4). Today Representation of the Affective
Quality Attributed to Environments.”
this concept is widely considered to be of purely historical
Russell, Ward & Pratt round off their
importance, often condescendingly labelled as “intuitive” two-dimensional key to affective
or “introspective”. However, as Thayer 94 has demonstrated environment evaluation (horizontal
in numerous empirical studies, Wundt’s intuition was not axis: “pleasant-unpleasant”; vertical
axis: “high-low arousal“) using inter-
entirely incorrect; that is to say, many people surveyed as
pretive abstraction (and masking
to their moods share the observation that a high degree of inconsistencies). Diagram: Russell et
tension can be associated with weak as well as with strong al. 1981, p. 281.
vitality. Thayer separates a “vitality dimension” (“energetic”
versus “tired”) from one related to tension (“tense” versus
“calm”), and demonstrates that the abstract dimension of
well-being or of what is pleasing (with Russell et al. “pleasant-
unpleasant”) is not fully independent of the type and degree
of “arousal” or “tension”. 95
Based on a synthesis of the results of empirical mood research,
Watson and Tellegen 96 in turn differentiate the dimensions
of “positive affect” (high = e.g. active, energetic, strong; low
= e.g. bored, tired, weak) and “negative affect” (high = e.g.
worried, nervous, anxious, hostile; low = e.g. quiet, calm,
relaxed). Thus, in designating their dimensions, they have Fig. 4 “A three-dimensional mani-
already taken into account the dependence of well-being fold of the basic forms of emotion”.
Diagram: Wundt, 1902, p. 288.
on vigour and tension. This model, like the model of Thayer,
allows the combination of calm and increased vitality, such 94 Thayer 1989.
as for example regularly accompanies an enjoyable stroll
through a park in sunny weather. 97 95 Russell et al. place great value
Through their choice of adjectives, Russell and colleagues on the statistical independence of
their two dimensions, expressed in
already reveal a weakness of their measuring tool designed
the perpendicular relation of the two
to gauge the affective evaluation of environments: axes. Since Wundt viewed his three-
— While the adjective “gloomy” does appear in the list dimensional system expressly as an
used by Russell, Ward & Pratt, “bright”, “sunny” or related idealization, he did not therefore rule
out that the degree of pleasure or
qualities are absent. It seems that the authors erroneously
displeasure could vary with the level
considered “bright” or “sunny” as a neutral description of of arousal or tension.
the situation (“perceptual/cognitive meaning”) rather than

159
as an affective quality. 98 Thus they deprived themselves of
96 Watson & Tellegen 1985. the opportunity of using their tools to quantitatively mea-
sure a relation that not only aestheticians have repeatedly
97 This combination also contradicts emphasised.
Russell’s subsequent argumentation — Another of the blind spots in the descriptive inven-
(Russell & Feldmann Barett 1999)
tory of Russell and colleagues also concerns an atmospheric
that Thayer’s dimension “tense/
calm” or the dimensions of Watson environment quality in the narrower sense—one whose
& Tellgen are already contained as affective meaning, expressed in metaphors, is highly pres-
diagonals in the concept represented ent: the temperature. In common parlance, it is quite usual
by Figure 2: This concept precludes
for the “mood” or “atmosphere” in a room—or a group of
the possibility of feeling “relaxed/
calmly animated”. people—to be identified with “warm” or “cold”. 99
The affective meaning of thermal labels has not escaped
98 See note 89 above. the attention of other environmental psychologists. And so
this usage has led to “atmosphere” being measured solely
99 One can find the polarity of according to the evaluation “warm” or “cold”. In studies by
“cool” and “warm” in a list of Ritterfeld100 on housing experience, a doctoral student used
“antagonistic qualities” with which
interviews with furniture customers to gauge how impor-
the phenomenologically oriented
psychiatrist Hubert Tellenbach, in his tant for people it is that home furnishings contribute to the
study “Geschmack und Atmosphäre” “warmth” of a home. Using photos of differently furnished
(1968, p. 63) (Taste and atmosphere), rooms (familiar from typical representations of furnishing
aims at a purely qualitative study of
styles), she elicited evaluations on, among other things, a
the “atmospheric”. Tellenbach was
primarily concerned with describ- “cold-warm” scale: the results being interpreted as an indi-
ing “atmosphere” among people. He cator of perceived “atmosphere”.
prefaces his list of polarities with the In a study by Csikszentmihalyi & Rochberg-Halton 101 on the
remark: “Criteria related to tempera-
living situation of families, the comparison of “warm” and
ture, tension and consistency, which
would otherwise be considered as “cold” also emerged as a decisive evaluation criterion. During
criteria for the atmosphere as air, are in-depth interviews, household members (across the genera-
what are predominantly expressed in tions) were, among other things, also specifically asked about
the qualities.” (1968). the “atmosphere” prevailing in their home. The authors stress
the importance of the interpersonal aspect: a “warm atmo-
sphere” can, on the one hand, be directly attributed to an open,
100 Ritterfeld 1996. relaxed and loving interaction among family members;102 on
the other hand, it also depends on how their life and family
101 Csikszentmihalyi & Rochberg- history is present in the things they surround themselves with.
Halton 1989. Additionally, the presence and care of house plants 103 also
contribute to the warmth of relationships between people
and their things. Thus there is a close proximity here between
“warmth” and a relaxed vitality. 104

More recently, Tucker Cross (as a doctoral student of the Swed-


ish environmental psychologist Rikard Küller) interviewed
residents about the open space in their housing area, with
a particular emphasis on atmosphere.105 She defines “atmo-

160
sphere” summarily as the “dominant feeling, mood, attitude 102 “Atmosphere at home” here
or state of mind originating from a direct relationship with deals with social wellbeing, as does
the interview study with the same
an environment”.106 In a joint publication, Tucker Cross & Kül-
title published by Pennartz in 1986.
ler107 write that the “concept environmental atmosphere” has In the statements reported by the
recently been introduced into the field of housing research author, the importance of layout
without however mentioning any sources. They see it as is subservient to the suitability of
a home for a relaxing life together
addressing a wide variety of topics: aesthetic taste, variety
and a feeling of security (even when
as a precondition for continuing interest, dignified aging of enjoying moments alone). It is
a district, facilitating social contacts, imparting a feeling of important to bear in mind that the
security; and, finally, provision of intimate space to enable author used the Dutch word “gezel-
ligheid” to denote “atmosphere”;
privacy. The spectrum covered by the 44 statements on the
Wolter’s Dutch-English Dictionary
questionnaire is correspondingly broad.108 The factor analysis translates it as: “1. Conviviality; 2.
of the responses yielded five factors,109 of which in essence Cosiness, comfort; 3. A convivial
two —“outdoor enjoyment” and “aesthetics”— involve the intercourse”.
type of questions that interest us here. Things that encourage 103 On the contribution of indoor
“outdoor enjoyment” include: protected areas that provide plants to the “vitality” as well as
the “atmosphere” (versus “lack of
for relaxation; places that are warm, even in winter; places
atmosphere”) of rooms, see also the
where you can enjoy a wide variety of sounds, or where you results in Krampen (1993).
can see and hear children at play. The statements that Tucker
Cross collects under the heading “outdoor enjoyment” are 104 In this context, see also the
predominantly linked to “relaxation”, “physical warmth” results that Rittelmeyer (1994)
achieved in his school construction
and “vitality”.
studies using the semantic differen-
Under the “aesthetics” label she correlates statements that tial; also the correlation of the fac-
confirm the absence of uncomfortable environmental quali- tors “cosiness” and “liveliness” which
ties: “there are not too many unpleasant hard edges”, “there Vogels (2008).
is not too much concrete and asphalt”, “it is not too cold and
windy”, “shapes and colours are not boring”. Tucker Cross 105 Tucker Cross 2004; Tucker Cross
also assigns the positive opinion that the space is “beautiful & Küller 2004.
and appealing” to this factor, although the correlation of
this statement with the evaluations listed above is signifi- 106 Tucker Cross, 2004, p. 26.
cantly weaker than how these evaluations correlate with each
other (“loads on the factor less strongly”). When examined 107 Tucker Cross & Küller 2004, p. 75.
more closely, what for her constitutes “aesthetics” is thus
essentially an absence of “hardness/harshness”, “cold” and 108 “The items covered: general sat-
“boredom/lifelessness”. In short: as an absence of discomfort isfaction (attachment), overall design
and layout, legibility, aesthetic eval-
and dreariness.110 Since the questionnaire was handed over
uation, complexity and coherence,
at the front door to be picked up again about half an hour identity and affection, originality
later, it was possible to register the weather prevailing at the and mystery, soundscape, construc-
time of the survey. It emerged that the weather had, in part, a tion materials, greenery, climate,
ecological sustainability, pollution,
significant influence on the answers: “Remarkably, it appears
traffic control, security, sociability
that if the weather was nice and sunny when the residents and meeting areas, privacy, special
answered the questionnaire, they scored significantly higher needs, services, and maintenance.
on Aesthetics.” 111 Those questioned responded to sunshine […] items were formulated in emo-

161
tional terms in order to tap into the and warm air to such an extent that they tended to agree
psychological atmosphere of outdoor more with formulations mentioning a lack of “hardness/
residential areas.” Tucker Cross 2004,
harshness”, “cold” and “boredom/lifelessness”; in other words,
p. 27.
sunshine displaces memories of discomfort and dreariness
109 “‘Attachment’, ‘Outdoor Enjoy- to beyond the mood horizon.
ment’, ‘Aesthetics’, ‘Sustainability’, I would like to add a final remark on the model that Russell
‘Social Interaction’”, Ibid., p. 30.
and colleagues introduced as a basis for measuring the mood
110 On this correlation, see also Rit- of an environment: despite its inconsistencies and blind
telmeyer 1994. spots it has nonetheless found wide approval. In market
research— for example in tourism—it is applied with an
111 Tucker Cross Ibid. acceptance bordering on naivety and sometimes explicitly
employed as a benchmark for “atmosphere”.112

112 For example, Schober 1993, “biophiLia” — “gaia”


Leichtle 2009. In many of the numerous studies on the attractiveness and
the restorative effects of “green” and “blue” environments,
the authors explicitly refer to a thesis originally formulated
by the biologist Edward O. Wilson. He had introduced his
idea under the term “biophilia” in 1984 in a book bearing the
same name. According to Wilson, sympathy for life or life-like
processes is inherently human. “The Biophilia Hypothesis
boldly asserts the existence of a biologically based, inher-
ent human need to affiliate with life and lifelike processes”,
as Stephen Kellert formulated it in a volume brought out
by Wilson and himself in 1993, where the thesis is widely
113 Kellert 1993, p. 42. discussed. The proponents of this idea only hint at what
is meant by “life-like” processes: Kellert mentions—“for
example”—“ecological functions and structures”, 113 with-
out expanding any further. Many formulations appear as
a mixture of natural scientific knowledge, that is a causal
description of biological processes, and the animism inher-
ent to our perception—as when Wilson describes a morn-
ing in the tropics:“[…] I imagined richness and order as an
intensity of light. The woman, child, and peccary turned
114 Wilson 1984, p. 6. into incandescent points. […] The woodland beyond was a
luminous bank, sparked here and there by the moving lights
of birds, mammals and larger insects.” 114 “After the sun’s
energy is captured by the green plants, it flows through
chains of organisms dendritically, like blood spreading from
the arteries into networks of microscopic capillaries. It is in
115 Ibid., p. 8. such capillaries, in the life cycles of thousands of individual
species, that life’s important work is done. Thus nothing in

162
the whole system makes sense until the natural history of
the constituent species becomes known.” 115
The proponents of the thesis that love of life represents the
guiding principle of our relationship with nature do not
exclude from “biophilia” a fear of dangerous animals (espe-
cially snakes) or uneasy feelings in unsafe environments. In
his original 1984 book Wilson had addressed anxieties such
as a fear of snakes and concern for a safe habitat, without
however explaining how the fear of other living creatures
could be reconciled with the postulated all-embracing love 116 Ulrich 1993.
of living things. Other authors have introduced an additional
concept, “biophobia”,116 to make provision for such aspects;
but they leave open the question of how this relates to its 117 Sagan & Margulis 1993.
antithesis.
Sagan and Margulis117 identify the problem in their contri-
bution to the above-mentioned anthology. They argue for 118 “With such complexities, such an
a neutral perspective on the relations of living organisms admixture of feelings both positive
and negative, and subtler states
to one other. They suggest accommodating the positive as
in between, a mixture which can
well as negative relations among living creatures with the moreover be changed and applied to
introduction of the concept of “prototaxis”, already present more recent technological objects,
in biology.118 Sagan and Margulis attempt to overcome what it is difficult to speak monolithi-
cally of biophilia, a simple love of
they consider an unjustified harmonisation of the relations
life. Perhaps it would be better to
between living organisms—from a higher-level perspective speak of prototaxis – the generalised
on life, as it were: the “Gaia hypothesis” (in whose framework tendency of cells and organisms to
the earth’s mantle of air — the atmosphere — itself forms react to each other in distinct ways.
Ivan E. Wallin defines prototaxis in
part of a kind of superorganism):
Symbionticism and the Origin of Spe-
cies as the «innate [that is, genetic]
“Roughly, Gaia is the nexus and nest, the global life and tendency of one organism or cell to
environment, the planetary surface seen as body rather than react in a definite manner to another
place. Recognizing prototactic living organisms such that they, organism or cell.» Let us think then of
both positive and negative biophilia
in their patchy environments, themselves become selective (sometimes called biophobia) as
agents is essential to the Gaian view of life on earth.” 119 “The aspects of global prototaxis. The
Gaia hypothesis claims that, on earth, the atmosphere-hydro- principle of prototaxis ought to
sphere, surface sediments, and all living beings together (the be perceived as intrinsic to living
beings, all of which have distinct
biota) behave as a single integrated system with properties
lineages and combinations of genes.”
more akin to systems of physiology than those of physics.” 120 Ibid., p. 347.

The way different forms of life in a place react to each other, 119 Ibid., p. 352.
which Sagan and Margulis propose as part of the Gaia prin-
ciple, flows together in our perception with an animistic 120 Ibid.
understanding of the elements of the place. This under-
standing is partly fed by analogies of animal behaviour
(movements, sounds), and partly, as described by Lipps, by

163
projection of one’s own “life pulse” stimulus onto the envi-
121 Here, the perspective of the ronmental qualities from whence this stimulus arises. The
Gaia Hypothesis converges with the preattentive evaluation of this broadly conceived “life in a
animism of perception.
place” or “life of the place” 121 serves to assess the suitability
122 See Wimmer (2011), who of a milieu for our own life in it.122
recently introduced Konrad Lorenz’s
description of the “kinesis” and
“taxis response” of simple organ-
desigNiNg “atmospheres”: miLieu desigN
isms into the mood and atmosphere
discourse — without reference to Designing landscapes—or more generally, open space—is
Sagan & Margulis (1993). Wimmer an activity that, like no other art, relates directly to origi-
believes, however, that it is only from
nal situations in the history of the human species. Thus, it
the perspectives of Heidegger and
Schmitz that the true meaning of this involves continuous but not necessarily conscious milieu
biological approach to mood can be evaluation: an activity we share with other animals. For any-
grasped; why this should be the case one wishing to design an environment, the talent required
is, in my opinion, not made entirely
in the first instance is to bring forth an impression—be it
clear. — One also finds an echo of the
perspective of milieu evaluation in conscious or preattentive—of a certain quality of life and
how the philosopher Seel approaches vitality of place . Traditionally however, architects and design-
the concept of atmosphere: in “atmo- ers prefer to design something striking—be it a monument
spheric appearance” he discerns a or some other architectural gem: focal design vs. environ-
“sensual-emotional awareness of
existential correspondences” (2003,
mental design. While this contrast may appear somewhat
p. 154; emphasis taken from the overstated, nevertheless I think it helps our search for an
original German). Seel understands understanding of how designers—deliberately as well as
this “existential correspondence” accidentally—contribute to the creation of “atmosphere”.
as being necessarily equivalent to
A passage taken from Tim Waterman’s 2010 textbook clearly
situations and “ideas and aspira-
tions about life” (ibid., p. 154); and illustrates how this dichotomy informs landscape architects’
he therefore equates “atmospheric professional outlook:
appearance” with the perception of “Architects generally have to respond to clients who ask for
a “temporary shape to our life” (ibid.,
buildings that stand out and make a statement. However,
p. 155; highlight in the original Ger-
man).However, this does not really landscape architects are often at their most successful when
chime with the character of mood their work is least visible. This low-key […] approach is apparent
or “atmosphere “ as background, in almost every stage of the design process. […] Landscape
non-specific perception — i. e.
architects must intently observe the site, understanding
evaluating the milieu inclusively and
pre-reflexively without any specific its capabilities, and holding them up against all its possible
object in mind. uses. In landscape architecture it is almost always true that
form follows function.” 123
123 Waterman 2009, p. 86. For the outside (even if also professional) observer, however,
the prevailing impression seems to be that many landscape
124 Tessin 2008. architects are driven by a desire to create an outstanding
“work”—at the expense of the living milieu. Wulf Tessin’s
125 Schönhammer 1989, 1999 and plea for an “aesthetics of the pleasant”,124 which in some
2009. respects offers assessments similar to those I have presented
both here and in the past,125 is full of acidic observations
on this topic.

164
When architects or designers work on interior design, it is—
as with landscape architecture—a question of designing an
environment. The “atmospheric quality” of interior spaces
depends not least on how much sunlight and fresh air they
admit and what type of views they provide. Additionally, the
selection of materials or surfaces (colour, texture) directly
affects the atmosphere of a room. With their interior designs,
architects and designers create “atmosphere” indirectly: by
creating the framework within which the dwellers/users of
the rooms will live. The architect Peter Zumthor formulated 126 Zumthor 1998; 2006. In
the credo that design should ultimately succeed in disappear- “Atmosphere”, a lecture published
in booklet form (Zumthor 2006),
ing behind the life whose living space it creates.126 Apparently
he considers direct and indirect
not all designers share this ideal—and for many developers or “atmospheric effects” from a total of
clients it is also important that “design” should be palpable. 11 differing perspectives, some partly
But where “style” becomes a quality of an environment, overlapping.
there is a price to pay in terms of the pulse of life. This helps
explain why cinema often uses highly styled interiors as a
cipher for the inner emptiness of the occupants. Where it is 127 For cool kitsch see Schönhammer
intended to impregnate an atmosphere with “design”, one 2010.
can regularly count on the cliché of “cool” lighting, and a
choice of ostentatiously elegant materials—“cool kitsch”. 127

seLLiNg desigN atmosphericaLLy


Nonetheless, there are many designers who on the contrary
develop a certain skill in developing a less sterile “atmospheric
packaging” of buildings, furnishings and other design objects.
A good example here would be the husband and wife team, 128 These films are partly based on a
the Eames, who made films depicting the house they had succession of still images.
designed as well as other objects. 128 The film “House—after
five years of living” 129 presents a series of images which tes- 129 Eames & Eames 1955.
tify to a loving attention to detail and a decided, but not
rigid, order in the life of the occupants: among a plenitude
of objects, we see carefully composed collections of natural
and (folk) art objects, with many colourful textiles and the
green of house plants. The house appears to be no more and
no less than the adequate framework or container for this
appealing vivacity. The open design allows multiple views
of the lush vegetation of the garden, the ocean background,
and the deep blue of the sky with an occasional delicate
cloud. Open windows and doors suggest a waft of fresh air. 130 Eames & Eames 1957.
Many of the images capture atmospheric rays of sunlight.
In the filmic portrait of their sofa, the “S-73”,130 the Eames lend

165
a certain homeliness to the furniture portrayed in the photo
studio; for example, they add a bowl of fruit or a single pot
plant. Through the use of cartoons and playful pantomime
scenes, they evoke how the designer object willingly submits
131 Eames & Eames 1972. to the primacy of everyday life.
To mention a final example, their film about the “SX 70”
Polaroid camera 131 shows us how, thanks to instant picture
technology, the protagonists of a “full life” can preserve
their activities and their world any time they wish; the film
accompanies young and old as they capture for posterity
their affectionate relationship to one another, and to things.
The Eames’ films portray a heart-warming picture of life-
affirming design. In this self-portrait, design ultimately
becomes the task of giving a joyous family, encompassing
both nature and culture, a helping hand. It is true that the
climate of harmony in this imaginary greenhouse can some-
times become a bit stifling. You feel the need to let in some
(more) fresh air.
Be that as it may, these films illustrate the prerogative of
image and sound to capture moments or episodes of life: to
form and select in response to situations as they arise—a
power which architecture and design simply cannot com-
mand (season and time of day, weather, perspective). Images
allow you to capture and hold a mood that develops out of
the momentary lighting situation. And with imaging media
you can produce a visual record of staged or spontaneous
human and animal action.
The sound film in particular can outline action (motion)
taking place in the background against the focused actions
or objects; it allows the public to immerse itself in sound-
scapes, even to the point of experiencing the background
132 Kracauer 1964. life of situations beyond the reach of the camera.
With such cinematic potencies in mind Siegfried Kracauer,
in his “Theory of Film”,132 postulated that the essence of the
medium is how it touches life, especially “street life”. Accord-
ing to Kracauer, history films contradict this core of “the
filmic”: for the viewers it remains all too obvious that it is all
just theatrical devices—from the costumes down to the plot.
Expressed in terms of our concerns: even in a medium like
film, seemingly predestined to capture the “life of a place”,
under certain conditions all too plainly design becomes the
focus. Then, instead of images and sounds giving us the illu-
sion of being surrounded by an “atmosphere”, we now feel

166
as though we are trapped in a narrow air bubble. Because
the film-makers themselves are often only too aware of this
limitation of history films, they yield to the temptation of
focusing on magnificent historical originals (such as vin-
tage limousines) in an effort to distract from this lack; all of
which, of course, only serves to emphasise the initial defect.

Nowadays, when presenting their designs, many architects 133 Cf. Wigley 1998.
routinely take advantage of both stills and films to create
vivid scenarios, whether they are planning open spaces, 134 Cf. Gehl (2010), who underlines
buildings or landscapes. Apart from taking great care to his argument for a vibrant city
with a large number of appropri-
present the situation in—literally—the best possible light,133
ate snapshots of cheerful (summer)
they strive for a lively overall impression by peopling their street scenes — which must have
perspectives with a loose distribution of figures among the surely helped the reception of “Life
settings (looking attractively relaxed). 134 A sketch-like depic- between buildings” (1987; Danish
original 1980).
tion of these virtual extras (and even of the complete design
presentation) may be used to underscore the “atmosphere”
of the design—and its future realisation: for in sketches 135 Cf. Wigley Ibid.
(and in the many digital possibilities of blurring fixed forms)
“figures” tend to dissolve into the “ground”. 135

vaNishiNg poiNt “greeN”


Whether designs when realised fulfil the promise of the
presentations depends not least on how welcoming the situ-
ation finally turns out. For the creators it is an advantage
that, by and large, humans (and other living beings) find
“green” and “blue”, the essential design elements of land-
scape architects, attractive. It is also quite often the case
that designers will find an existing stock of trees around
which to orient their design process. Reflecting on such an
inheritance can actually evoke in landscape architects a sense
of humility—a sense that, on the whole, is rather foreign to
other types of architect.

The security of knowing one has an attraction as power-


ful as “green” at one’s disposal—and it can definitely help
to obscure many design extravagances—may also prove
a source of temptation. For it can encourage designers to
impose vegetation on urban spaces where it is not really war-
ranted—and not only because of the welfare of the plants.136 136 See Sitte’s (1909) reflections,
Even trees and grass are not immune to becoming raw mate- even then, on “metropolitan green”.
rial for professional design kitsch. By contrast, I would point

167
to those many well-known and well-regarded city squares
and places that have no “green” (and at most the “blue” of
a fountain); yet they are apparently such promising poles
of human life, and act as such magnets, that they become
attractive milieus for residents and visitors alike. In these cases
it is their integration with the rhythms of public and semi-
public urban life—movement interspersed with calm—that
is the key: together with spatial coherence and openness to
sunlight (while also providing areas of shade), this is what
creates such favourable conditions (often, traces of private
lives can also be found in the houses lining these squares
and places: a curtain caught in a breeze, for instance, drawn
for a moment across an open window). The type of building
materials used can also help urban free space become “open-
air living rooms”—milieus that radiate a “warm atmosphere”.

LessoNs for miLieu desigN


Are there any practical lessons—“recipes” as it were—on
how to go about designing the mood of open spaces? In my
estimation: Yes. Even if this sounds suspiciously formulaic.
This risk may be counteracted with the aid of a basic prin-
ciple that follows on from what has already been said: it
states that design should aim, not at creating exceptional
objects, but rather at creating favourable conditions for life
in (each specific) place. When applied in this sense, sympa-
thetic design can benefit from an analysis that has been
compressed into rules.
In his “Pattern Language” and other books, Christopher Alex-
ander especially (with some help from colleagues) has demon-
strated how such a responsive approach can generate relatively
137 Alexander et al. 1995; Alexander fine-grained rules and guidelines.137 An explicit attempt to fol-
1979; Alexander (2002–2004). low in Alexander’s footsteps for the specific context of landscape
architecture was undertaken by Rachel and Stephen Kaplan
together with Robert Ryan in 1998. And while the approach has
proven somewhat disappointing, this is of itself not sufficient
grounds to justify a fundamental scepticism—such as that
of Tessin (2008)—concerning the search for useful rules for
the design of green open space. The set of rules developed by
Kaplan, Kaplan & Ryan turned out to be somewhat meagre:
one could trace this back to how the favourite concepts of the
authors (coherence, complexity, legibility, mystery) have only
a limited applicability to the “life of a place”.

168
In traditional writings on landscape design, such as in
Hirschfeld’s “Theory of Garden Art”, can be found rules of
thumb about how to influence the “character” of a garden
or park: for example, by the type and organisation of plant-
ing schemes. 138 The effects described are the result of how 138 Hirschfeld 1779, pp. 186–230;
the impression of fullness/emptiness is modulated, of how it was through the writings of
Böhme (1989) on the aesthetics of
shadows are thrown by the selected plant varieties (and
nature that I first became aware of
how they are grouped), and from the reflective properties Hirschfeld’s work.
of leaves and bark—in other words, the contribution of the
plants to the light in which the scenery appears. The relative
flexibility of stems, branches and foliage contributes to the
play of light but also conveys different moods in its own
right. One can still find an echo of this wealth of experience
of garden art in current introductory texts for students of
landscape design.139 For anyone intending to follow in the 139 E.g. Wöhrle & Wöhrle 2008.
footsteps of such a tradition, this requires a broad knowledge
and personal experience of the form and characteristics of
species and sub-species of trees and bushes (including their
seasonal and life-cycle changes).
Linda Parshall140 recalls that Hirschfeld in particular attached 140 Parshall 2003.
great importance to how the presentation of movement
affects the mood conveyed by a park. In the passage in the
first volume of his “Theory of Garden Art” entitled “Move-
ment”,141 he encourages landscape designers to follow the 141 Hirschfeld 1779, p. 186–230.
example of landscape painting in how it evokes for viewers
the movement of people and animals (as we mentioned
above, this would be self-evident for the current genera-
tion of designers, at least as far the presentation of their
designs is concerned). Hirschfeld’s recipes for vital movement
in the scenery in turn call for biological (“green”) knowledge
and thinking in landscape architects: from considering the
symbiosis of plants and animal species to reflecting on how
positioning trees with an awareness of their flexibility can
graphically illustrate air movements. He considers what he
terms the “typical childish games and tricks” 142 of garden 142 Ibid., p. 172.
design artists to be a mistake: in his eyes mobile technical/
mechanical apparatus does not really contribute to the vital
appearance of a scene. But there was one thing he never
lost sight of: “water fountain” installations constitute an
exception to this stricture. “Kinetic art” installations that
rely on the play of “a gentle wind” would quite probably
also have met with his approval; while many examples from
painting, photography and cinema illustrate how effective

169
cloth (curtains, flags or drying laundry) can also be in this
143 Cf. Popper (1975); Buderer (1992), regard. And in forms of “air-sculpture” art, even when made
Schönhammer (1998); Tessin (2008, of quite solid material, the object tends to retreat behind
p. 102 f.) sees in Calder’s mobiles an
the literally atmospheric impression it create.143
approximation of what he calls “per-
formative open space aesthetics”.
Human activity is indirectly present through the traces it
144 Whyte 1988. leaves. Seats in city squares or in parks that can easily be
moved allow passers-by to arrange the seating to suit their
145 Fechner 1876. needs of the moment.144 But not only that: the order in which
the seats are found bear witness to how others have already
146 Ibid., p. 129 f.: “Human edifices “made themselves at home”. In the open landscape, as Gustav
are products, focal points, and points Theodor Fechner stressed in his “Vorschule der Ästhetik”
of departure of human activity;
(introduction to aesthetics),145 settlements or individual build-
they are domiciles of human suf-
fering and joy whose recollection ings can evoke human activity while simultaneously, through
weaves itself among the associations subtle signs of domestic comfort (light, heat), contributing
which the natural environment to a relaxed mood.146 Kaplan, Kaplan & Ryan 147 also mention
itself evokes, creating a powerful
the importance of traces of human activity in their catalogue
heightening of their meaning. […]
Each different type of building, and of recommendations for landscape designers. However, here
the manner in which they are either the contrast between vandalism and well-maintained is more
joined sociably together or scattered to the fore. They do not consider the positive aspect of signs
freely round about, imparts to the
of decay, as evident in the discussion on the aesthetics of
landscape a variety of impressions
concerning the life and activity of wastelands in Germany over the past decades,148 but they
the dwellers; a trivial detail on a do at least mention that remnants of the past can be inter-
house can trigger an effect much esting for visitors.149 That decay—ruins—can make a not
greater than its proportion should insignificant contribution to the vital appeal of a location
allow. In this manner, the smoke that
rises over the roof of a house, or the
was, for authors such as Hirschfeld and Fechner, beyond
light that twinkles from a window, question. Ruins exude a breath of past doings; they awaken
adds a not inconsiderable charm to vague notions of former life that are a crucial component
the landscape: not as a grey column, of what is called the “genius loci”. 150 In addition one has
not as a red spot; but rather as a
the uncalculated look of old, worn materials. Together, this
trigger for the memory of the warm
oven, the kitchen fire with all that creates a melancholic mood where decay, the transience of
it evokes, the evening cosiness of human endeavour, and the persistence of nature/life are all
the house; and all floats, not loosely present. The philosopher Georg Simmel considered this to
about the air, but woven together
be the reason why ruins tend to be surrounded by a peace-
with the whole house into the land-
scape, enhancing the spiritual hues ful atmosphere.151 The art historian Wölfflin attributed the
that lodge above the sensual.” “scenic beauty of ruins” primarily to how they dissolve the
boundary between object and surroundings.152 In this blurring
147 Kaplan et al. 1998 between figure and ground, Wölfflin discerns an extensive
movement-effect,153 which by the way can always be found
148 With reference to Wölfflin where a space is filled with a somewhat copious wealth of
among others, Loidl-Reisch first objects: “fullness in lines and masses will of itself always
argued in favour of the mood of
lead to a certain illusion of movement, but it is especially
waste ground in 1986, with some
rich groupings which yield picturesque paintings.” 154

170
For today’s landscape designers, the aesthetics of ruins is additions in 1992 (1992). Tessin’s
(2008) polemical objections to the
apparently not merely a reminiscence of a romanticising aesthetics of waste ground indicate
precursor (Fig. 5). Traces of history and the contemplation that his “aesthetics of the pleasant”
of the “power of nature” add a bitter-sweet intensity to the is bound up with a certain time/
“life of the recreation area”— so long as there is no threat mindset.
or didactic message involved. Perhaps it would be more
accurate to say: The overgrown, deserted traces of past 149 “Historical features, such as
life can heighten that feeling of humility that always reso- old farm equipment or remnants of
buildings from the past, often pro-
nates when experiencing nature (or indeed exploring the
vide an interesting stopping point.”
“concrete jungle”): one enjoys one’s life by looking beyond Kaplan et al. 1997, p. 98.
it. In this sense, even during a daily stroll, the horizons of
biophilia or the Gaia hypothesis shimmer in the background 150 See Valena 1994.
of consciousness.

The layout of roads and paths helps to orchestrate how we 151 Simmel 1983, p. 122.
move through a landscape. It can also generate a considerable
sense of anticipation concerning what is yet to be seen along 152 “The stiffness of the tectonic
the route (“mystery” in the sense of Kaplan, Kaplan & Ryan 155) form is broken up, and as the wall
crumbles, as holes and fissures
or provide perhaps a sequence of surprising views (“vistas”).
emerge, and as plants begin to
However, both these aspects have less to do with awareness appear, a life quickens which quivers
of the milieu than with focused perceptions. They play a fairly and shimmers over the surface. And
significant role in the book by Kaplan, Kaplan & Ryan,156 as as the edges become restless and the
geometric lines and order disappear,
does the orientation made possible by the route network
the building can unite in a pictur-
and its cartographic representation (this however more as esque whole with the freely moving
a precondition than for how milieus are experienced). The forms of nature, with the trees and
system of routes does however impact on how alive a place hills, in a manner impossible for non-
ruinous architecture. Wölfflin 1932, p.
appears overall—by the impression of movement that its form
24, original 1915
conveys, as well as by the texture and colour of the material
used for its construction. Where the route layout involves
the staging of a sequence of different micro-environments,
this can facilitate perception of “atmospheric” properties
in the limited sense, such as light and micro-climate. Thus
milieu contrasts are used to convert what are perceptions
of “ground” to “figure”.
Finally, resting places are not just an opportunity to sit down
for a while. The sight of people sitting down, even of seat-
ing that is currently unused conveys, as we have already Fig. 5 “A railway wilderness”, Gleis-
mentioned, a palpable sense of temporary habitability.157 dreieck Park in Berlin, March 2012.
© Rainer Schönhammer
It is important to bear in mind how not only specialised
recreation furniture but also steps or low walls are sought
out and utilised.158 Depending on the season and time of day, 153 Soentgen, in his dissertation
as well as weather conditions, such objects are also judged on material and appearance (1997),
suggests that decomposing material
on whether they face direct sunlight or can provide shade

171
possesses a type of “auto-activity” and shelter from the wind. South-facing step-seats with
that explains this appearance of
movement; he sees remarks by Sim-
protection from side-winds, for example, offer visitors to
mel und Wölfflin on the aesthetics of Gleisdreieckspark in Berlin some warm moments as early
disintegration as a confirmation of as the beginning of March.159 At such moments, a mood of
this interpretation—although both relaxed vitality softens, if not quite obscures, the stylistic
authors clearly state that it is atmo-
efforts of the new park designers (Fig. 6, 7).
spheric forces (literally: wind and
weather), as well as vegetation that
interrupt the quasi dematerialising
act of shaping/surface treatment by Translated from German by Douglas Henderson, Berlin.
human hands and tools. And as the
Quotations cited from original German-language sources have
ordinary use of language informs:
decay manifests itself quite directly been translated by the translator.
as things being “gnawed”/”eaten
away” by forces in the milieu. Literature

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179
180
fIElD REsEARch oN AtmosphERE

181
kAthRyN GustAfsoN IN AN
INtERvIEW WIth JÜRGEN WEIDINGER

Jw: Welcome, Ms Gustafson. Is this your first visit to Berlin?

kg: Yes, it's great to be here!

Jw: Have you ever planned or implemented projects in Ger-


many?

kg: No. But I do have a connection to Germany. In 2009 I


was awarded the Sckell Ring.1
1 Ring of Honour awarded by the
Jw: Even though you’ve never built anything in Germany? Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts,
named after Friedrich Ludwig von
Sckell, 1750- 1823, landscape gar-
kg: That doesn’t seem to be a criterion. I was delighted to dener who designed the Englischer
receive the honour, and I wear the ring all the time. I think Garten (English Garden) in Munich.
I’m one of three women who’ve received the award. In addition to Kathryn Gustafson,
who received the award in 2009, two
other women have been honoured:
Jw: Many of your projects have a narrative and poetic character Gerda Gollwitzer in 1981 and Herta
and create very special atmospheric effects. However, on your Hammerbacher in 1985. [editor’s
website, the term ambiance is only used in the context of the notes]
analysis phase. Is there a reason why you don’t use the term
atmosphere for the description of your design outcomes? Do you
ever use this term as a tool or objective in the design process?

kg: We use many different words. I try to find terms that help
explain what landscape architecture is. In this context, ambiance
is one of many terms. Unfortunately, landscape architecture
has slightly lost its orientation and somewhat gone astray.
Today, landscape architecture is concerned with all types of
systems, like water cycles and parametric programmes. As a
result, this old art of landscape architecture has been forgotten.
However, what really matters is the manner in which places
are created, and places always have a certain atmosphere.

183
What many other firms are doing at the moment is producing
and organising space, but a space isn’t the same as a place.
And the creation of places is very difficult. You have to be very
focused and attentive to create a place that’s original and
unique and that fits specifically to the context.

Jw: In the description of your approach to design, I noticed


three key aspects. The process begins with intensive research
on the culture, atmosphere, climate and history of the social
and ecological complexities of the place. This is followed by
the interpretation of the place as a conceptual starting point
in the form of a commentary or as the emphasis of a social
or cultural phenomenon. These can range from political to
personal phenomena. And thirdly there is a sensual aspect
that is directly connected with a sculptural-aesthetic quality.
For this purpose, you’ve developed an intuitive method of
designing with clay, and this method is refined and expanded
using 3D computer modelling. The clay models are cast in
plaster. Then the model is scanned and, from that point on,
the designer works with the digitally generated 3D model.
How would you describe the method of intuitive modelling?

kg: Well, intuitive isn’t methodical.

Jw: Is intuition anti-methodical? I view intuition as con-


densed experience that’s directly accessible. In other words,
intuition precedes intensive reflection and design.

kg: Well, that depends. If I follow my trains of thought, I’m


methodical in the process of following my trains of thought.
But with this, I’m not suggesting that my trains of thought
fig. 1 Lurie Garden in Millennium are methodical! Intrinsically, they’re certainly not methodical.
Park in Chicago designed by GGN,
United States 2004.
Jw: In purely practical terms, what does it look like when
you’re working with clay?

kg: How I start designing? I always begin with clay. I’ve been
working with clay since I was 13 years old. In a sense, it’s the
basis for my work. I feel very comfortable with it. And then
I’m very concentrated. Without clay models, my brain would
distort things. When I work on a model, I can stabilise the
design. Then nothing gets distorted. In my head, I’m able to
contort just about anything: geometries, shapes, everything.

184
But this isn’t particularly advantageous when you’re trying
to design something. You want everything to fit together.
And with the clay model, it all remains stable. It’s my method
of making sure that I don’t overlook anything and that I’ve
included all the essentials. When you design something,
you usually do it graphically, in a drawing with lines. But
with that method, you have a tendency to forget the ter-
rain and the place as a whole. If you work on a model, you
can’t forget anything. Everything can be directly recorded,
every corner and edge, all existing elements. A model is a
technical instrument for solving problems, but also a tool for
experimentation. If something isn’t working out as planned,
if it keeps doing something different, then you change it.
Through the model you find the way it has to be changed.
That’s the working process. I can design with drawings and
models at the same time, and then it goes back and forth.

Jw: It’s possible to see that in your projects. The control of


the terrain is palpable.

kg: The difficult thing about working with models is that it


can be a source of frustration when you’re working in a team.
Because the person making the model also controls it. And
when other people want to take part in the design process,
they have to trust the person who’s doing the modelling
and implementing all the important design decisions in the
model. Today, we can do a lot more on the computer, which
is why I’m working less with clay. I still make small models.
Then they have a more experimental character. They’re not
as fine and precise as the larger models. But it’s enough
for setting a direction, and then we move to the computer
and develop it further through digital means. There are also
projects where I haven’t worked with clay. For these, there
are only cross sections.

Jw: In addition to models, cross sections are the other easy


way to work with topography and space.

kg: I love cross sections. The great thing about them is that figs. 2- 4 Old Market Square in
you can put people in the cross section. Then you immediately Nottingham, United Kingdom 2007.
© Gustafson Porter + Bowman
get the right sense of scale. I tell my staff again and again,
“Draw the cross sections in scale.” Everything should be to
scale. Everything should be exact. Otherwise, you’re delud-

185
ing yourself. When you make cross sections, they have to be
to scale, or else you lose the chance to check the accuracy. If
you’re not accurate, then the design isn’t realistic and the
implementation of the design won’t look the same.

Jw: That’s also a problem here in teaching. We’re very strict


in that area. The use of digital technology too early in the
learning process is problematic. It’s very easy for students
to digitally draw things that look a little fancy but have no
meaning in reality. Returning to the subject of ambiance,
do you use the term atmosphere in your design work? Even
if you work completely intuitively, are there still moments
when you think, That’s such-and-such an atmosphere? Or
do you avoid verbal descriptions in your design intentions?

kg: That depends. Most projects start with a list of words, a


list of colours, with textures, with music. Although music is
relatively rare. In some projects, I choose the music, and all of
figs. 5 - 7 Old Market Square in my colleagues are supposed to listen to it. For example, we did
Nottingham. © Gustafson Porter + one project while listening to music from Moby the whole time.
Bowman

Jw: Music is perhaps the most atmospheric medium we


have available. The effect of music is the most difficult to
describe in words.

kg: Music grabs us and somehow pulls us completely in.

Jw: This is exactly how we perceive atmospheres. We can only


experience it when we’re right in the middle of it. We don’t
confront it. It’s something that grabs at you, that engulfs
you. You can also describe it as the immersion effect.

kg: When you look at landscape architecture, when you look


at picturesque landscapes or when you, for example, look
at all the movements and pathways of Le Nôtre. You move
through the landscape. You’re in the landscape. It’s about
the body’s relationship with the surroundings.

Jw: Theories on the atmospheric also make it clear that we


can best experience atmosphere by moving in the space. This
is why I’m convinced that the term atmosphere fits so well to
landscape architecture. By the way, German-speaking theo-
rists on atmospheres use the term Leib [translator’s note: the

186
“lived” or “subjective body” in philosophy] more often than
the physical term Körper [translator’s note: the “corporeal”
or “objective” body], while this distinction is more difficult
to make in the English language.

kg: This is what has been lost: the ability to design this.

Jw: I have the same impression, which is why we organised


this conference.

kg: I’ve developed a new concept for our work: the contem-
porary picturesque. The picturesque becomes contemporary
through the flexibility of use, the elimination of pollution
and the management of environmental issues. All of these
aspects must become part of the art of landscape architec-
ture. You have to know how to make landscape-architectural
places and then integrate all of these functional aspects
into the design. And this is what we do, as best we can.

Jw: This is exactly the synthesising and connective quality


of landscape architecture that’s missing in today’s discourse.
In our department, there are twelve professors, who have
very different views on landscape architecture and work on
very different things.

kg: They make systems.

Jw: The scientifically oriented professors work on systems


and distinctions instead of synthesis. With this event, we
would like to react to this situation and place the focus on
the qualities of landscape architecture.

kg: Once I saw a horrible project. It was in China or perhaps


somewhere else. There were only shapes. Some kind of crazy
pattern. It was not a place. It was the worst I’ve ever seen.
Someone explained that the shapes had been derived from
parametrically generated patterns of mice or ants. I can’t
remember exactly. I just looked at it and thought, It’s hor-
rible, simply horrible! And someone drew that! This has to stop.
Someone has to stop this!

Jw: Since you work in so many different countries, I’d be inter-


ested in hearing your opinion about the following observation.

187
In the post-modern age, architecture and landscape archi-
tecture focussed on the use of forms and the investigation
of their significance. Would you agree with the observation
that there’s been a paradigm shift from the form to functional
aspects? Or does this vary from country to country?

kg: Yes, and the astonishing part is that it’s like this every-
where. It’s absolutely global. Some of it is sensible, like the con-
sideration of environmental issues and the use of resources.
What makes me sad is that, apparently, everyone is following
these trends, which means that they’ve completely forgotten
what actually constitutes the art of landscape architecture.
Instead of integrating the new functional improvements in
the previous approaches, everyone has completely changed
sides. Perhaps there will someday be another countermove-
ment. When something is new, people tend to be fascinated
by it at first. For me, it meant that a large field opened up,
and it was a great opportunity and challenge to integrate
all of these things into a good design. I had to learn a lot of
new things, which is wonderful. For example, how to work
with the dynamics of water, how to conserve resources and
how to integrate environmentally sound principles into a
design. If these new issues hadn’t come up, I would have
simply continued with business as usual. Now I have new
tools to work with. Learning new things is pretty cool!

Jw: I’m trying to improve my ability to understand and sort


out the broad and very complex field of design. The guiding
principle form follows function has never been enough for
designing good projects. Let’s move to another question. Do
you ever serve on the juries of international competitions?
KG: Not often. I only serve on the juries of architecture com-
petitions, not of landscape architecture competitions. Really
large projects are rare in the field of landscape architecture,
and in these cases, we prefer to participate ourselves.

Jw: Do these juries give earnest consideration to the proposed


atmospheres of the open spaces? Or do they focus more on the
functional issues, like which submission has more trees or more
Figs. 8- 10 Bay East, Gardens by the Bay slip-resistant ground coverings or more vegetable patches.
in Singapur. 2006-2012. © Gustafson
Porter + Bowman
kg: It’s a simple fact that environmental considerations are
becoming increasingly important everywhere. Rainwater

188
management is a major issue, how to collect water and
improve the management of water resources. The creation
of gardening space for the production of food is another
part of the sustainability debate. Regional food production
and consumption, those are a few of today’s global issues.
Every country is demanding and promoting it. In Singapore,
for example, one hundred per cent of the impervious sur-
faces must be replaced. This means that all roofs must be
green. Sometimes you even have to replace 125%, meaning
that plantings must also be incorporated into the designs of
individual storeys. It’s very interesting, how laws influence
design and how you can work with them. I’m still surprised
at how quickly this became a global issue.

Jw: That’s probably due to the fact that climate change and its
impacts are being felt everywhere. If the functional aspects
dominate the discussions, does this mean that the ability
to design atmospheric qualities is being lost?

kg: That shouldn’t be true.


Figs. 11, 12 Bay East, Gardens by the
Jw: Perhaps it shouldn’t be, but is it? Bay in Singapur. © Gustafson Porter +
Bowman

kg: I think there’s a great deal of poor design.

Jw: But hasn’t that always been the case? Or has it gotten
worse?

kg: I think that things are better than they were ten years
ago. But apparently we’ve forgotten how to teach design and
composition. And we’ve forgotten to teach art. The majority 2 Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le Duc,
of landscape architecture is composition. It’s the interplay architect, restorer and art theorist,
1814 - 1879. [editor’s notes].
of form and space. And it also has something to do with
education. We had to study the masters. We had to learn
the various schools and movements, whether something 3 André Le Nôtre, French landscape
was from Viollet-le-Duc 2 or André Le Nôtre. 3 I have a large architect, 1613-1700. [editor’s notes].
number of cultural references in my head. Good designers
always have to have references.

Jw: Do you mean that not enough is being taught about


composition and design? How do you think we could bring
composition back into education?

189
kg: I don’t know how to convince a university that this is
important. I’m constantly asking my employees to go to the
museum, or simply to go outside. My good designers are used
to me telling them, “Now you’re doing that like this or that
designer.” And they know exactly what I mean. If you can’t
come up with anything new, then you shouldn’t be a designer.
When you design, you should be well aware of what came
before and in what context you’re moving. Otherwise, it’s
possible that you could make something very original and
not even notice because you don’t know what’s already been
4 Bernard Tschumi, French-Swiss done! I can still remember when Bernard Tschumi 4 gave me
architect and architecture theorist, the book Point and Line to Plane by Kandinsky. That was a
born in 1944. [editor’s notes].
revelation for me! It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read on
the subject of composition. You always have to stay curious
in order to understand it all. I don’t know how you can design
anything without knowing the higher-level background.

Jw: How do you approach your own design work? Intuitively?


When you work on a team, you have to explain yourself in
order to convince others. You need arguments to help other
people understand what a special spatial quality is.

kg: I think it comes down to experience. The physical expe-


rience of moving through the space is the combination of
various spatial interactions. If you can’t come in contact
with a variety of situations, you won’t have a variety of
experiences. And then everything always repeats itself.

Jw: Does that mean that you try to help the others take a
“mental” walk through the design?

kg: Yes. In that project—the one I mentioned earlier with


all those meaningless, continuously repeating patterns and
triangles— there, everything is the same. You can’t have a
variety of experiences there. There’s only one single experi-
ence, only one type of scale, from the relationship of the body,
5 Jacques Simon, French landscape how it moves in the space. I can take people on a mental
architect, landscape artist, book walk through a project and explain to them how boring or
author and university lecturer, born
good it is. Someone who was excellent at that was Jacques
1929, died 2015 [editor’s notes].
Simon. 5 I studied under him in the late 1970s. He could make
amazing sketches.

190
Jw: I’ve noticed the influence of Jacques Simon in your proj-
ects, particularly when it comes to modelling.

kg: Jacques and I worked together. He was amazing.

Jw: I had a seminar with him when I studied in Versailles.


We walked to an old, abandoned manor house in the forest
and built something out of junk and rubble.

kg: Yes, he was fantastic. He made these drawings that


explain what a hill does, what a hollow is, what it means to
sit under the crown of a tree. I remember small sketches. They
were simply black-and-white photocopies, and he handed
them out and talked about creating space and what it feels
like to be in a space. That was the state of the art at the time.
Everything was drawn by hand, black and white. But it was
great for explaining places. I learned a lot from Jacques and
Le Nôtre. Le Nôtre is simply marvellous.

Jw: You weren’t able to talk with Le Nôtre.

kg: But you can discover Le Nôtre on foot! You can feel all
of that in Versailles. Every step, every time you move even
a metre forward, you’re in new place. And every ten metres
you see something completely different. If you walk through
the park of Versailles, the space is constantly changing.

Jw: Before you became a landscape architect, you worked


in the fashion industry. What made you decide to pursue
landscape architecture?

kg: When I worked in fashion, there were only two worlds:


prêt-à-porter and haute couture. If I would have waited a
couple more years, I might have stuck with it. Later, lots of
things changed. A new movement was no longer sewing
these gigantic collections. Smaller collections were made,
and only 10 or 20 pieces were produced per model. I worked
in prêt-à-porter, and we had to produce a collection with
100 pieces every four months. That was brutal. It was the
most strenuous thing you could imagine. They were gigan-
tic collections. And as soon as you were finished with one,
you immediately had to start on the next. The work wasn’t
artistic enough for me. I didn’t have enough control over the

191
creative process. The pace was much too fast. So I chose the
slowest thing I could find—landscape.

Jw: Are you happy with the way you currently work?

kg: We mainly work for public clients. The political process is


very slow. That’s perfect for us, because we can work through
the entire design process with no time pressure. Only once
we worked for the Venice Biennale. That was very fast. That
almost killed me, but we managed.

Jw: I find that, in the design process, it generally takes a


very long time before you understand what you want for
the place and how you can make it happen. It’s interesting
that, in Germany, there’s a young generation of landscape
architects who distinguished themselves at the beginning
of their careers through the use of digital technologies. As a
result, the young colleagues won competitions, displacing
the older generation of landscape architects. I was always
very amazed by how quickly the young colleagues work and
how professional the designs look. It always takes me a long
time to understand what effects the design outcome will
have and what atmosphere will be created. Do you also have
the impression that there’s a very fast generation out there?

kg: You can do all kinds of things quickly. I call it visual pollu-
tion. And there’s a lot of visual pollution out there. It’s quickly
produced trash. By contrast, if you look at good design, like
6 Dieter Rams, German industrial the industrial design of Dieter Rams,6 you can tell that he
designer, born 1932. [editor’s notes]. didn’t develop it quickly. He optimised every curve and every
proportion. A design like that takes time. It takes months,
and many studies are required in order to do it well. The
physical presence that arises as a result is unbelievable. If
someone is able to do that quickly, then bravo. But I don’t
think it’s possible.

Jw: I don’t share your opinion that quickly produced projects


are automatically trash. In general, I agree that good projects
need enough time.

kg: We worked on a new series of furniture that will be


launched this year. It took us two years to develop a proto-
type from the design. And this work involved the design of

192
eight units for the series. For each unit, four or five proto-
types were tested in order to make sure that each part was
perfect before it went into production or was shown at
fairs and exhibitions. All these things. Perhaps it’s my age.
I don’t believe in the throwaway society. There are people
who are born designers. No question. Most people have to
learn how to design, but there are a few born geniuses who
simply have it in their blood.

Jw: That fits perfectly to the next question, which is about


knowledge. On your website, you write: “When one designs
landscape, the aim is to create spaces that are liked and
accepted by everyone in every situation. The concept gives
the work meaning, purpose and spirit, which is easier to feel
than to understand.” In my department, we’re interested
in the knowledge that’s attained through design work and
sensory perception. In other words, knowledge that isn’t sys-
tematically prepared but instead can only be grasped through
experience. Designers have a lot of implicit knowledge about
things. This is also how they understand phenomena. The
sciences explain phenomena by looking at them from the
outside. They explain things in an analytical manner. When
and how do you know that you’ve understood something and
how you can design it? Did you learn this through experi-
ence, or has it always existed? Can you explain this in view
of your many years of experience as a designer?

kg: There’s always some doubt. There have always been


phases in my life when I seriously questioned whether I
was able to do it right. I think that there’s always doubt.
Once a young man came to an interview and told me I was
talented. And I said that I’d never thought about this word.
It never occurred to me that I could be talented. But in that
moment, I asked myself: Am I talented now? But I stopped
thinking about it because doubt came over me. However,
what I learned over the years is that I can manage to do
things if I keep at it. And now I know that I won’t fail if I Figs. 13-15 Towards Paradise, Instal-
keep working on something. This is how I’m able to find lation for the 11th International
Architecture Exhibition at the 2008
the right solution. But I have to be careful. When I’m not
Venice Biennale of Architecture.
observant, then things go wrong. We have such busy lives. © Gustafson Porter + Bowman and
We do so many different things. But for good design, you GGN
have to be very focused and attentive. You have to take a
lot of time, and you have to explore things very intensively.

193
It’s like raising children. It’s not only about feeding them
and taking them to bed. You have to let them grow up. You
have to reflect on your actions. And you have to try a lot of
different things in order to find out whether they work.

Jw: Earlier, you said that you can recognise talent in other
people.

kg: It takes me about 30 seconds. In a group of students, I


can immediately see who the best are. It’s something about
the way they move.

Jw: How do you explain this to the students?

kg: I’ve never told them.

Jw: Have you ever taught?

kg: Once I taught in Berkeley, California, for three months,


but I didn’t like it. I was giving classes on conceptual design
and taught design as an extension of the self. I thought
that I should work with every student personally. It was
as if a psychoanalysis took place with every individual so
that they could learn more about themselves and, on this
basis, develop their own forms that were distinct from the
forms of others. So I would spend several hours with the
students. When I subsequently left the studio, I was lost. I
was no longer able to design. I couldn’t do anything at all.
I was completely empty. That was one of the most painful
experiences I’ve ever had. Then I sat down for an hour and
drew a tree. That’s how I found my way back to myself. If my
mind is somewhere else, I can’t design. Then I’d draw what
the last student I’d worked with had designed. I was still in
his head and couldn’t do anything else. So I went out into
nature to a tree or a boulder and, in the process of drawing,
quickly found my way back to myself. It has something to
do with the connection between the eye and the hand.

Jw: It’s a trick?

kg: It’s an exercise. It helps you be yourself again. But let’s


get back to the question of what makes a good project. I
think there are certain levels that have to be part of a project.

194
And you’re not finished until you’ve worked everything in.
It’s about the functions and programmes that the clients
and users want and about forms and your own standards.
There’s just this huge number of aspects that have to be
taken into consideration in a design. In many projects that
I see, two things are usually missing. First, the relationship
with the surroundings doesn’t work. The other error is that
there are no hierarchies. There’s no jump in scale from small
to large and even larger. Hierarchies are important for creat-
ing a place. Some things are smaller, some narrower, some
larger, others far away.

Jw: We try to explain that to the students. It’s difficult for


reaching out / letting in
them to understand because they’ve never designed anything.
It’s like trying to teach piano to someone who’s never seen or
touched a piano before. I’ve always been interested in the ques-
tion of how to describe and explain the synthesising qualities
of a design. This is the path that led me to the phenomenon
of atmosphere, and that’s why we’re hosting this conference,
where you’re going to be giving an evening lecture.

kg: In order to teach that, it would be good to offer a seminar


on the spatial composition of historical gardens. Can today’s
students recognise the characteristics of the various gar-
dens? The differences with respect to cultural backgrounds,
structure and perspectives are gigantic. They were composed
and designed in completely different ways. I remember a
book about poetry and space, in which the author broke
down historical gardens into axonometric projections. This
makes it possible to see what roles the terrain, pathways,
trees and water play. He dissected the designs to make it
easier to understand the composition. During my profes- figs. 16-18 Diana, Princess of Wales
sional training, I also made several analyses like this. That Memorial Fountain in London’s Hyde
really helped me understand the function of mass and empty Park 2004. © Gustafson Porter +
Bowman
space or colours in the design. I think it’s vitally important
to learn the history of garden design, art and architecture
as the foundation for design. That’s how I was taught. How
are students taught today?

Jw: Well, there’s been a paradigm shift in this area. You


described the teaching paradigm for handicrafts and art.
There’s a master who doesn’t analyse and present his work
systematically: he just does it. And the apprentices learn by

195
imitating the master’s work. After a while, the apprentice
works his way up in the company, wants to be better than
the master and either creates something new or introduces
something new to the work of the master. Of course, not
all of them will be able to do so, just like not all will be able
to marry the master’s daughter to take over the master’s
business. Today, we’re following a science-based teaching
paradigm. The students are given information on a wide
variety of topics from all complementary disciplines involved
in a design discipline. In addition, applications are used for
the design process. I’ve seen universities in Italy or China
where students are not allowed to design anything; you
don’t start designing until after graduation, when you enter
the work world. The students have an extensive knowledge
of the basic scientific principles, at least according to the
curriculum, and have to figure out for themselves how to
synthesise and apply the information they’ve learned. The
structure is designed to teach students to be independent
and to prevent epigonism. Reproducing the projects of other
designers is frowned upon in this structure. In my opinion,
the production of drawings based on successful spatial com-
positions can be a helpful part of the learning process.

kg: Good art schools teach drawing.

Jw: The relationship between artistic approaches and sci-


entific methods in the discipline of landscape architecture
7 “Designing Atmospheres” (“Atmos- is subject to constant change. The conference “Designing
phären entwerfen”), 10-11 May 2012, Atmospheres” 7 is taking a fresh look at the design aspects
Technische Universität Berlin, Insti-
of landscape architecture to counteract the unilateral drift
tute for Landscape Architecture and
Environmental Planning, Prof. Jürgen towards scientific analysis that we’ve been seeing over the
Weidinger. past several years. Thank you for coming and for the inter-
esting discussion.

Translated by Leslie Ocker.

196
AtmosphERE As pAtINA. oN
REckoNING WIth AtmosphEREs
andreas rauh

To complain about the weather is as propitious as it is futile:


despite the fact that it almost always generates debate,
one cannot possibly change it. By contrast, in the case of
atmospheres, derived from meteorological contexts and
transferred to aesthetic discourses, this only partly holds
true: atmospheres can be created, spaces can be turned into
climate zones. With regard to the meaning and genesis of
atmosphere, there is a theoretical difference to what extent
it is derived as a metaphor from its meteorological origin:
according to Gernot Böhme, atmospheres are independent
entities which are so frequently and universally constructed
that he recommends aesthetic theory to follow in the foot-
steps of aesthetic praxis; because “with materiality one
can really do magic. Interior decorators, stage designers,
and designers do it. […] How is it possible that our bodily
sensitivities are subject to something with which we do not
have any bodily contact? Magic?” 1 To Herrmann Schmitz, by 1 To Böhme, one possible explana-
contrast, atmospheres are floating and external emotional tion is that in addition to a percep-
tive and working relationship with
powers, which are rather as unpredictable as the weather.
the material, one can also enter into
He is skeptical about constructing atmospheres pursuant a medial one. Cf. Böhme, Gernot:
to a technique of impressions, which enables a bodily inter- “Inszenierte Materialität”. In:
relation via such facilitators as impressions of motion and Daidalos 56, 1995, p. 36-43, here p. 43.
Translated by author.
holistic idiosyncrasies.2 That atmospheres cannot only be felt
but also constructed is based on arguments which invoke
everyday experiences or spontaneous experiences of life. 2 Shaped atmospheres are grounded
The development of theory, then, happens in the form of in impressive situations. Cf. Schmitz,
Herrmann: “Über das Machen von
re-thinking the pre-experiences with situations already
Atmosphäre”. In: Blume, Anna (Ed.):
lived through. Hence, one has to reckon with atmospheres Zur Phänomenologie der ästhetischen
even though the necessary factors and summands, like in a Erfahrung. Freiburg, 2005, p. 26-43,
mathematical equation, are not, yet, known in detail. here p. 26. Translated by author.
The construction of atmospheres, in particular, is a field in
which the naturally grown is likely to collide with the will to

199
construct and, consequently, necessitates cautiousness and a
readiness to engage in a discourse. Atmospheres are like land-
scapes: They need a specific time of genesis and cultivation to
not degenerate to featureless spontaneous growth, but, on
the contrary, develop significant characteristics by means of
carefully controlled growth. Atmospheres are the patina of
modeled spaces, which, almost unnoticeable, gain influence
on the character of the space and, in turn, (co-)shape one’s
perception. Town centers display this patina and atmosphere
which shopping-villages forcefully try to establish.
In the following, it is argued that one has to reckon with
atmospheres and how—which becomes particularly evident
when comparing two examples of perception. Thereupon,
field studies conducted on the museum island Hombroich
help to demonstrate to what extent aspects of time are
accountable for when and how atmospheres are perceived.
Drawing on a methodology derived from schematic design
helps to broaden perspectives on atmospheric schematic
phases. Finally, it is advocated to understand atmospheres as
patina. In doing so, a particular emphasis is put on the time
one has to take into account in order to receive, plan, and
produce atmospheres. To construct them means to reckon
with time, with the patinating power of atmosphere.

oN reckoNiNg with atmospheres


It is impossible to reckon with atmospheres in the sense of
calculating and adding figures. It is not difficult to compre-
hend the atmosphere as a specific interplay of subjective
sensitivities and surrounding qualities of space. It is complex,
however, to assess the atmosphere as a sum of these implicit
as well as explicit, subjective as well as intersubjective par-
ticles of perception. Given this complexity, the “atmosphere
has a strange role […], dislodging both those who put it at
3 Wigley, Mark: “Die Architektur der the center of their thinking and those who marginalize it.” 3
Atmosphäre”. In: Auer, Conrads et al. It is the characteristic status in-between which elevates the
(Ed.): Konstruktion von Atmosphären.
atmospheric phenomenon from the ontological everyday
Constructing Atmospheres. Daidalos
68, Gütersloh 1998, S.18-27, here p. 18. understanding defined by a separation in subjective and
objective factors of perception. With it, a third moment is
given which accompanies perception and defines its hue.
Architect Mark Wigley problematizes the desire of planning to
consider the atmosphere as a quantitative parameter when
stating that “those who embrace effect cannot approach

200
atmosphere directly— cannot point to it, cannot teach it.
[…] Any specific proposal for constructing atmosphere, no
matter how changeable or indeterminate, is no longer atmo-
spheric.” 4 Even if the individual intent is not atmospheric, 4 Wigley, Mark: Die Architektur der
its qualitative results may well be as the products and sum Atmosphäre […] 1998, p. 27. Cf. also
Fromm, Ludwig: “Überlegungen zum
of planning efforts. Anyhow, it is not just because of the
‘gelebten Raum’”, p. 260. In: Michael
meaningless verbiage of everyday small talk or the customs Großheim (Ed.): Neue Phänomenolo-
of philosophical-aesthetic discursivity which makes talking gie zwischen Praxis und Theorie.
about atmospheres a useful endeavor. Freiburg München 2008, p. 238-264.
One can, in fact, reckon with atmospheres in the sense of
expecting and considering them. The complex of atmosphere
of the seemingly subjective and the seemingly objective always
manifests itself there where the human being is bodily present.
As a fundamental access to and exchange with the world, it is
particularly the corporeality of perception which constitutes
the personal gateway to atmospheres: they disturb, they sur-
prise, and they shock. They determine the quasi-objective
emotional space which influences the perceptions and actions
within it. As soon as an atmosphere becomes apparent, it
can no longer be ignored. Thus, one has to reckon with atmo-
spheres because they are responsible for turning the world
into a relevant and distinct surrounding. To argue in favor
of the phenomenon of atmospheres can be based on the
experiences of those who associate something emotional
and mood-changing with the atmosphere of a department
store, the atmosphere of a bonfire, the atmosphere of a party,
a city, or a landscape—not just from the perspective of the
recipient but also from the perspective of the producer. While
in some aesthetic contexts the term atmosphere is used for
lack of better words, in many fields of design its use is not
only not uncommon but also increasingly known and proven.
May the encounter with atmospheres be evanescent, may
they be fragile like soap bubbles, their iridescence, however,
cannot be denied. “Atmospheric effects evaporate as fast as
a thought is gone or an association disappears.”5 At the same 5 Blum, Elisbeth: Atmosphäre.
time, though, they can have a lasting impact on the percep- Hypothesen zum Prozess räumlicher
Wahrnehmung. Design2context
tion and serve as prominent reminiscences which facilitate
ZHdK 2, Baden 2010, p. 193. Translated
the personal access to corresponding atmospheric surround- by author.
ings. Because “the atmosphere appeals to the emotional
perception; the kind of perception which works incredibly 6 Zumthor, Peter: Atmosphären.
fast and which we, presumably, need because it guarantees Architektonische Umgebungen. Die
Dinge um mich herum. Basel 2006,
mankind’s survival.”6 It is not a calculating but an expecting
p. 13. Translated by author.
perception which has to reckon with atmospheres.

201
Generally speaking, perception is key to atmospheres. The
various kinds of relationships between the perceiving subject
and the perceived object are already alluded to in the way a
perception is phrased. To exemplify this, one could refer to
the two sentences “I see a tree” and “I feel the mightiness of
the tree.” The linguistic transformations of the exemplary
sentences are not, however, based on an identity premised
on a reality independent of the subject, but, on the contrary,
they are based on a subjective intention in a given perceptive
situation. In the case of perception, moreover, one has to
take into account that which is phenomenally given and not
just verbally described, the difference between an experi-
ence and articulating an experience.
In the first example, “I see a tree”, the verb “see” suggests
the specific perceptive mode of an experience of seeing.
Schematically, one could imagine an eye which absorbs
beams of light of a remote object in the shape of a straight
brown tree trunk and a bushy green crown of the tree. In
this example, the objective pole “tree” is pitted against the
clearly defined subject “I”, which is closely tied to the tree. By
transforming the statement “I see a tree” into its congruent
form, “This is a tree”, it becomes obvious that the “I” plays a
minor or subordinate role in determining perception and,
moreover, the “I” does not necessarily have to manifest itself
7 Böhme, Gernot: “Befindlichkeit”. as a concrete human being. Consequently, the first example
In: Jahrespublikation Ethik und Unter- turns out to be a mode of perception which is limited by
richt (7), Nordhorn 1999, p.4. Transla-
the focus on a sensual conduit and the bipolar model of
tion mine. See also Rauh, Andreas:
“Stadt – Land – Fluss. Ästhetik und perception of subject and object.
Atmosphären”. In: Modulor / Maga- The phrasing of perception with the “I” as an independent
zin für Architektur, Immobilien, Recht. entity, which is indifferent to an object of perception, pro-
2012, p. 46-48.
hibits the phenomenal affectedness in the process of per-
ceiving—an affectedness which clarifies the relationship of
8 Hauskeller mentions the actor the subject of perception and the object of perception by
who, despite the auditorium’s being using phrases such as “mine” and “me” instead of “I” (“The
dimmed out, senses the audience’s
tree impresses me”).
mood and its gaze and, while doing
this, “the sensation is […] rather dif- Even though in the second example, “I feel the mightiness
fuse and less differentiated, closer of the tree”, another “I”-sentence is formulated, the “feel-
to the mere notion than the actual ing” here does not refer to a singular, tactile collecting of
recognition of more or less distin-
data, but it refers to “something that is present and I’m
guishable characters.” See Hauskel-
ler, Michael: Atmosphären erleben. somehow in its presence.” 7 One’s own presence is a crucial
Philosophische Untersuchungen zur part of perception, the bodily presence on the scene, in the
Sinneswahrnehmung. Berlin 1995, p. tree’s proximity. Just because of this intimate perceptive
166. Translated by author.
referentiality the question of “what” is perceived is extended

202
to include “how” it is perceived. The mightiness of the tree 9 Pretnar, Markus: “o.T.” In: Fakultät
can only become an object as an object of perception. The Architektur und Bauingenieurwesen
(Ed.): Atmosphären. Vortragsreihe
mightiness of the tree is an atmosphere which is generated by
Grundbegriffe der Architektur. Dort-
the subjective condition of the perceiver and the surrounding mund: Institut für Städtebaukunst,
qualities of space of the object perceived. Thus, sensing this TU Dortmund (Grundbegriffe der
atmosphere refers to sensing as a diffuse experience rather Architektur, 4) 2011, p. 103-143, here
p. 105. Translated by author.
than sensing in the sense of feeling and touching.8 While
the objective-mediating validity and the terminological-
reflective distinction between the subject and the object
decrease in comparison to the first example, perception’s
bodily-phenomenal part and the attention to atmospheric
affectedness increase. This contrast also becomes apparent
when one tries to translate perception by means of using an
apparatus; for instance by taking a photograph of the tree:
To view a tree from the distance is a well-known and well-
tried postcard motive, the capturing of the mightiness of the
tree, by contrast, is the task of an experienced photo artist.
To reckon with atmospheres in the sense of constructing
and planning necessitates that “construction does not end
with the wall, the ceiling or the floor, but that it goes beyond.
Construction means to appeal to the visitors’ perception.” 9

fieLd studies hombroich


The country surrounding the wild English park of the island
Hombroich, situated on a landscape preservation site and
enclosed by one arm of the rivulet Erft, is a fine example of
fundamental reconstruction or redesign. Located between
Neuss and Grevenbroich, the old meadowlands had been
exploited agro-industrially and severely affected by brown
coal surface mining. In the 1980s, landscape architect Bern-
hard Korte succeeded in renaturing the area: The reacti-
vation of a more than 10.000 years old anabranch of the
river Erft provided the chance to take humus samples and
to analyze pollen so that, eventually, a planting of meadow
plants typical for the lower Rhine region became possible. The
museum island’s leitmotif to let “art parallel nature”, which is
inspired by Cézanne, also forms the basis for Korte’s aesthetic
matching of vegetation with landscape and museum-related
architecture. By expanding the mere process of renaturation Fig. 1-3 Taken on October 15 and
conceptually, he aims at “a landscape of great clarity, great 16 and December 20 and 21, 2005,
on the museum island Hombroich.
rationality, and a sound juxtaposition of meadows, creeks,
and areas of water.” 10 Many years after the initial planting,

203
10 Korte, Bernhard: “Topos”. In: Stif- it is now possible to recognize and enjoy the tripartite land-
tung Hombroich (Ed.): Stiftung Insel scape of the museum island Hombroich: An English garden
Hombroich , Museum und Raketen-
from the 19th century, historic wet meadowlands, and an
station. Neuss 2004, p. 57. Translated
by author. elevated terrace and garden area. It is here that aesthetic
and artistic situations are brought together with ecological
and geological ones. This convergence and contrast allows
for atmospheric perceptions: different spaces with different
artistic as well as natural objects permit different experi-
ences with different degrees of influences of the senses.
As a result, it is to be reckoned with the existence and the
self-presentation of exemplary atmospheres.
11 The following notes were taken by Notes taken during the field study reveal the impressions
the author during a visit to the museum collected on site: 11
island Hombroich on December 20,
Part of the trail: The wind is blowing: it is soughing through
2005. The words set in italics were
written in situ, supplements, however, the various plants on the right and the left side of the trail.
are not set in italics; the page numbers Depending on the position on the trail, a concert of polyphone
of the field report are given in brackets rustling is audible (old foliage on the tree, reed grass, old tall
after the respective paragraph.
trees, trees with thick and thin branches). (Each photograph
taken is inevitably framed by trees. Hence photographs only
12 The pages p. 2a-11 refer to the allow for a kind of view through a window) (p. 2)12
author’s notes taken during the field New experiences foster a new field, which becomes apparent
trip.
in makeshift neologisms: It is very white [inside the sculptural
edifice ‘tower’] but not the cold white color of a factory, rather
a warm white color of a sculptural edifice. (p. 2b)
Inside the labyrinth [one of the museum buildings]: The paint-
ings (hung rather low at children’s height) and sculptures are
not accompanied by tags which usually give away the artist,
the title, and the year of origin. Some artists can be identified
because of their signature style or because of their auto-
graphs on the painting. In many other cases in which this
is not possible, one sooner or later gives up on this “read-
erly” attitude. Of greater interest, then, are the individual
artefacts’ relations to their position in space and to other
artefacts. A painting is not isolated, it does not hang on its
own, but it is integrated into a community of other works
of art (and nature). Groups of sculptures are carefully spread
across as well as concentrated inside the room; at times in dis-
play cases, at times in the open space; not symmetrically as one
would expect it from this particular style of architecture; on
steles of different height, flat cubes or horizontal steles. (p. 6)
One is not simply contemplating art here, but with equally wake-
ful senses one is contemplating nature. The different forms of
perception overlap and complete each other, they connect. This

204
overlapping does not necessarily have to manifest itself at
a fixed place at a fixed moment in time. The overall impres-
sion of the museum island is possibly the sum of tempo-
rarily disparate moments of experience, one could get this
impression by walking around. (p. 6) Perceptions which do
not pertain to the field such as the experience of walking
suddenly become the center of attention: The feet enjoy the
changing grounds from earthily soft over pebble-massaging to
marble-firm grounds: One does not have any difficulties stand-
ing or walking. (p. 9)
Part of the trail: Contrast to the historical park: one can let one’s
gaze wander across distant meadows. The sheer size of the park/
the area becomes apparent. The three characteristic areas of the
meadow lands, the historical park, and the plateau separate the
museum island into discreet emotional offers, which allow for
an alternating involvement and detachment. (p. 11) (fig. 4, 5, 6)
The phenomenological approach of the aisthetic fieldwork 13
is concerned with both permitting open perceptions and
retaining them. The intersubjectivity of atmospheric spatial
situations proves itself by means of retracing atmospheres
rather than verifying them. Characteristic for the method of
the aisthetic fieldwork are the following three core issues:
taking notes of all perceptions in order to preserve them,
the possibility to supplement the memorial protocol, and
the unity of the person collecting the data and the one
interpreting them. Taking notes of all perceptions happens
in the respective fields and opens up the chance to retain
changes of atmospheric realities without referring back to
a potentially fallacious memory. The making notes serves
as a circumlocution and circumnavigation of a holistic
impression by means of singular sensory impressions. The Figs. 4-6 Taken on October 15 and 16
possibility to supplement the memorial protocol of the aist- and December 20 and 21, 2005, on
the museum island Hombroich.
hetic field report is a necessary addition to the notes before
they are being interpreted. By means of reminiscences the
study is amended and the additional descriptions help to 13 More details on the methodical
comprehend the partial aspects recorded step-by-step in the particularities and problems of the
aisthetic fieldwork can be found in
field report as a simultaneous perception and to include the
Rauh, Andreas: Die besondere Atmo-
descriptions of holistic sensitivities. The unity of the person sphäre. Ästhetische Feldforschungen.
collecting the data and the one interpreting them then fixes Bielefeld 2012, p. 203 ff.
the vocabulary of the interpretation of the notes exactly on
one person. On the one hand, this is to ensure the balancing
of linguistic idiosyncrasies. On the other hand, the person

205
working in the field is recognized as the person most skilled
to adequately comprehend the relation of linguistic descrip-
tions and the atmospheric perceptions. The awareness of
the particular interplay of the quality of the surroundings
and the ambiance in the all-embracing atmosphere foster
an understanding of nature which is characterized by the
effect on and the encounter with the subject of perception.
Accordingly, efforts to name the atmosphere are to be consid-
ered as hermeneutical contributions to the understanding
of a staged reality and environment.
The museum island Hombroich lends itself well to the appli-
cation of this method: it is an accumulation and collection
of different, special places, which cater to characteristic sen-
sory fields of perception and which allow for the evolving of
processes of perception as well as complexes of issues and
references. The vast extent and the resulting unwieldiness
of the area create curiosity and a feeling of being on a secret
adventure trip. It is to be stated: the “atmosphere does not
14 Pfister, Dieter: Raum – Atmosphäre – know any ‘holes’.”14 It encompasses the indoor and the outdoor
Nachhaltigkeit. Emotionale und kulturel- areas, the areas of the arts as well as the areas of nature.
le Aspekte der sozialen Nachhaltigkeit des
Hence it is not restricted to the indoor areas displaying the
Bauens, des Immobilienmarketings und
der Gebäudebewirtschaftung. Basel 2011, artefacts like in a regular museum, which means that the
p. 76. Translated by author. atmosphere is not only generated by staged works of art in
sculptural edifices but also by staged nature. Programmati-
cally, one becomes equally aware of the arts and nature and
their mutually referencing each other so that the different
(with respect to the study of art) learned and (with respect
15 See p. 6 of the notes taken during the to the study of nature) born modes of perception enter into
field trip. a relationship and their formal as well as temporal dispari-
ties interweave. Perception is thus experienced as a process,
16 These formulations draw on
the two modes of experiences of which can be expanded from an art historical-factual focus
atmosphere described by Böhme, to synesthetic experiences.15 In general, the atmosphere on
albeit with a slight shift of accent: the museum island Hombroich can be described as open,
Experiences of discrepancy refer to
stimulating, exciting, and intimate.
the noticeable and constant contrast
of a quasi-objective disposition and In particular, the atmospheric tunes of partial aspects of the
one’s own disposition; experience of museum islands reveal themselves. It is particularly because
ingression refers to the overcoming of atmospheres frequently border on each other, overlap, and
an initial discrepancy of disposition by dissolve, that they are specifically recognized when a room,
means of diving into the atmosphere.
See Böhme, Gernot: Aisthetik. Vor-
shaped by the natural as well as designed qualities of the
lesungen über Ästhetik als allgemeine surrounding, stands out of the ever-present atmosphere
Wahrnehmungslehre. München 2001, because of a discrepancy to its own disposition. They become
p. 46 ff. apparent at the borderlands where two distinct atmospheres

206
meet, thus when they are recognized as being discrepant.
They also become apparent in those situations where an
atmospheric impression deepens, thus when they are rec-
ognized ingressively.16
An experience of discrepancy is therefore the experience of a
quasi-objective disruption of mood. Two atmospheres are
bordering on each other in a way that the change of their
idiosyncrasies does not go unnoticed because the “meeting 17 Wigley Mark: Die Architektur der
of these seemingly ephemeral atmospheres can be as solid Atmosphäre […] 1998, p. 24.
as any building.” 17 Thanks to Korte’s landscape architecture,
characters of nature meet together and show a discrepancy, 18 p. 2a Field report.
which normally, due to intergrowth, would not show as clearly.
This happens particularly at the borders of different land-
scape areas, where the gravel walks lead to or pass by. The
disposition and mood of the meadowlands are strikingly
different from those of the historic park: singular tall, sprawl-
ing trees, small, stumpy trees with long branches, reed and
weed are the dominating rectilinear plant structures, which
vertically point at the open sky. The gaze is wandering with-
out hindrance across a homogeneous seeming landscape,
permeated by small rivulets and pond-like areas of water.
The wind is clearly noticeable and in the various plants it
creates “a concert of complex rustling […] depending on one’s
position on the trail”.18 Because of the interweaving of nature,
the atmosphere of the meadowlands is a wide, open, and
coherent one, a well-rehearsed and harmonious one. Also
the atmosphere of the historic park is a coherent one, yet,
rather an occlusive, dull, and bleak one. Many old trees are
overgrown with tendrils, boxwoods hedges and shrubs are
steadily taking over the trail. These fringes and attenuations
of the visual field, the acoustics of strolling on the gravel
walks, softened by foliage and fir needles, characterize the
ponderous, melancholy seeming disposition of this part of
the museum island. If one is directly headed towards the
different pavilions on the gravel walk, one does not have
to dive into each atmosphere: following this, atmospheres
are discreet. Nevertheless, they are determined, if one is
sensually opening up to the surrounding, if one leaves one
atmosphere and enters into another one, if their bordering
on each other becomes apparent. (fig. 7, 8, 9)
By contrast, the experience of ingression is the experience of Figs. 7-9 Taken on October 15 and 16
an atmosphere one can get into. Its specific features only and December 20 and 21, 2005, on the
museum island Hombroich.
become visible after having spent some considerable time

207
19 Cf. Dieter Pfister’s ‘spacing model’, in it. The perceiving subject has gotten deeper and deeper
which emphasizes the processual and into the atmosphere. It takes an exposure to the respec-
atmospheric nature of space, which
tive atmosphere in order to recognize it. It starts with the
comprehends quality in a spatial
sense, and which is intended to plan attitude towards perception and, therefore, with the way of
inclusive, holistic designs of space by walking across the museum island. To recognize an atmo-
means of codes: Pfister, Dieter: Raum sphere necessitates being exposed to the respective atmo-
– Atmoshäre – Nachhaltigkeit […] 2011,
sphere. It starts with one’s attitude towards perception and,
p. 16 and p. 64 f. Translation Translated
by author. thus, it starts with the way one walks across the museum
island. Walking in the sense of maneuvering is an action that
20 p. 6 Field report. requires a distancing perception in order to avoid running
into a tree. Walking in the sense of strolling is action during
21 p. 9 Field report. that one has to reckon with atmospheres.19 To stop or to sit
down allows for getting completely different impressions
because “temporarily distant moments of experience come
together in the course of walking”.20 Amidst the variety of
perceptions available, there are moments that are untypical
in the context of experiences hitherto made in museums:
“The feet enjoy the changing grounds from earthily soft
over pebble-massaging to marble-firm grounds: One does
not have any difficulties standing or walking”.21
This has an impact on the sense of time. While long stays
in museums usually result in aching feet, one completely
loses the sense of time on the museum island Hombroich,
and one finds one’s own rhythm of contemplating art and
nature. A first experience of ingression can be made with
the museum edifice ‘tower’. The dominating atmosphere is
a warm, exalted, and elevating, somewhat stimulating one,
which is facilitated by the increasing intensity of perceiving
white walls. Viewed from the outside, the strict geometrical
windowless architecture of the cube made of bricks appears
to be very hermetic and massive. The building’s façade seems
to be an unswayable-structured surface as the individual
story segments display different shades of red, brown, and
white, with different weathering properties. Upon entering
the room, one is surrounded by the color white and some-
how welcomed by a white cube, which, however, does not
display any works of art: the room itself is a work of art.
The interplay of the different shades of white increasingly
becomes the center of attention; one recognizes a variety
of sometimes distinct, sometimes blurred shades of white.
Fig. 10, 11 Taken on October 15 and Inhomogeneous white square floor tiles made of marble
16 and December 20 and 21, 2005, complete these shades. The white is “not the cold white color
on the museum island Hombroich.
of a factory, but rather a warm white color of a sculptural

208
edifice”.22 Particularly when the sun is up, the light, which
shines through the clear glass panels of the four doors point-
ing in the four cardinal directions, creates different kinds
of white during daytime. (fig. 10, 11, 12)
The experiences of discrepancy and ingression on the museum
island Hombroich indicate to what extent aspects of time are
involved in the how and when of perceiving atmospheres. It
could be argued that the design of nature and art is geared to
singular atmospheric moments and holistic fields of impres-
sion. Because “inscriptions, […] processions, choreographies,
staging of all kinds are attempts to furnish a room either
permanently or temporarily for [its visitors]. Thresholds within
the room draw attention to the aforesaid: enchantment of
the moment or permanent occupation of a territory.” 23
As regards designing it is pivotal to furnish a room with Fig. 12 Taken on October 15 and 16,
respect to its functional purposes as well as to imbed aes- 2005, on the museum island Hom-
broich.
thetic qualities.24 Jürgen Weidinger’s manual on the creation
of atmospheric effects in landscape architecture elaborates
on how aesthetic effects can be controlled in this process: “1. 22 p. 2b Field report.
To find an atmospheric topic for the respective space, 2. To
realize this topic spatially, 3. To stage motion in space, 4. To 23 Blum, Elisabeth: Atmosphäre […]
allow for the integration of different modes of behavior, 5. 2010, p. 14. Translated by author.
To intensify the experience by means of creative details.” 25
The five phases of the project create temporal frames of a 24 Cf. (also in the following)
hermeneutical comparison of theory and praxis, of design and Weidinger’s article in this volume.
space, of arrangement and utilization. For the atmosphere
to-be, at first, initial theses are outlined; the theses can take 25 Ibid.
the form of metaphors, collage or templates — comparable
to the possibilities when ‘taking notes of all perceptions’ in
the context of aisthetic fieldwork. The projected topic, thusly
fixed and up for discussion, is then realized spatially. The
atmospheric genesis and consistency of the selection and
arrangement of creative details can be checked. By means of
rejecting and revising, the atmospheric composition takes
shape. Consequently, the projected topic is completed practi-
cally as well as theoretically; the ‘possibility to supplement
the memorial protocol’ is given. A next phase focuses on the
person in space and the latter’s stimuli to move in it, which
decide on ‘the ability to move’ and ‘the inability to move’.
The designer of an aesthetic qualitative offer of atmosphere
has to build on his or her personal as well as professional
background and experience. Particularly when it comes to
integrating new and unprecedented modes of behavior and,

209
moreover, the intensification of the experience by means
of creative details, the ‘unity of the person collecting the
data and the one interpreting them’ is crucial, because s/he
can accomplish the intensification of the atmospheric topic
thanks to his/her own experience in planning, the thematic
engagement with spaces, and the adaptation and adjustment
of designs. To counter claims that atmospheres cannot be
generated as they have to develop over time or are verbally
attributed to certain spaces, it can be argued that serious
design does not only set the talking about and discussion
of atmospheres in motion, but it also cultivates them. By
articulating them, also the implementation of time of the
atmospheric genesis is instantiated.

patiNatiNg aNd paNieruNg (coatiNg)


Atmospheres are always present where someone is bodily
present whose perception is affected by them and who experi-
ences them— particularly in a discrepant or ingressive man-
ner. They can also be connected with a certain space in such
a way that they appear independent of perception, like for
instance the sound of a falling tree which also exists despite
nobody is perceiving it. Atmospheres adhere to space like a
patina, a thin layer which fosters the mutual and characteris-
tic relation of the perceptive conditions and contents. There
is no ground zero or neutral state from which the patina of
the atmosphere could be determined or calculated. It seems
as if the patina has taken over the spatial situation unnoticed
and it takes some time to admire it appropriately. Hence,
when designing and enjoying landscapes, materials, forms,
and volumes do not suffice. Time periods equally have to be
taken into account when it comes to shaping atmospheric
qualities and the mood visitors can get into.
When reflecting on the issue of atmospheres, the term panier-
ung (coating) is emphasized rather than the aforementioned
patinating: etymologically, the Greek origin of the term refers
to the vapor layer enclosing the earth, while its French ter-
minological counterpart ‘ambiance’ is derived from Latin
‘ambire’ (=circle, circumvent, go around). The term panierung
entices one to impetuously insist on the staging of space
and the arrangement of material. The enclosing is about
to become a coat which is forced upon the grown, which is
put upon the already existing—hoping that the atmosphere

210
may develop magically and autonomously. When “generating
atmospheres through the characters of materials, it is about
conjuration, distant effect, and the elicitation of effects by
means of signs. Magic is enigmatic, it is incomprehensible
because cause and effect are not of the same quality, and it
is dangerous and treacherous as the magic is also working
against our will.”26 This is also because the paniert (coated) 26 Böhme, Gernot: Inszenierte Materi-
room has not yet developed into a patinated one. alität […] 1995, p. 42. Translation mine.
Thus when it comes to short-lived or long-term atmospheres,
the aspect of space should not be overemphasized—even
though it helps to understand to what extent the forces shap-
ing atmospheres are not just part of the art of the senses or
the art of consciousness, but that they also determine the art
of space.27 At the same time, the aspect of time has to be taken 27 As for instance in the case of music,
into account. The notes on the terminological readjustment which to Böhme, “from the perspective
of theory of the atmosphere, is essen-
of the experiences of discrepancy and ingression, respectively,
tially an art of space.” Deuter, Martin /
have shown that atmospheres have essentially to be considered Weymann, Eckhard / Böhme, Gernot:
as an art of time, too. They can be considered an art of time “Die Musik modifiziert mein Gefühl,
insofar as a visitor of an exhibit or a landscape is a perceiving im Raum zu sein.” Ein Gespräch mit
Gernot Böhme. In: Musiktherapeu-
subject whose time is limited, who is granted a certain amount
tische Umschau 26 (3), 2005, p. 307-313,
of time to perceive atmospheres and who is willing and able here p. 309 f. Translated by author.
to spend some time on contemplating his/her perceptions
in a specifically designed environment. As time goes by, the
visitor does not only see the tree, but s/he feels the mightiness
of the tree, s/he senses when atmospheres are bordering on
each other or when s/he is drawn deeper and deeper into an
atmosphere, s/he discerns if the design only surrounds the
designed or if it is idiosyncratically and consistently connected
to it. As patina, atmosphere determines the “unity of life”28 28 Fromm, Ludwig: “Überlegungen
of a space, the ability of its materiality to age and to evolve zum ‘gelebten Raum’”. In: Michael
Großheim (Ed.): Neue Phänomenologie
in a very natural way. The given is not a disgrace, but it is
zwischen Praxis und Theorie. Freiburg
a chance: “Proportionally to the revocation of architectural München 2008, p. 238-264, here p. 256.
interference, the role of the atmosphere of the already existing Translated by author.
gets more important. The accidental, worn […] known from
clubs, small movie theaters, and galleries is shaped only very
gently (like, for instance, in the case of vintage-architecture)”.29 29 Hanisch, Ruth: “o.T.” In: Fakultät
The panierung (coating) is something imprinted and forced Architektur und Bauingenieurwesen
(Ed.): Atmosphären. Vortragsreihe
upon, an external thing, while the patinated is something
Grundbegriffe 4, Dortmund 2011, p.
connected, related, and intergrown—the atmosphere. This 9-41, here p. 31. Translated by author.
is what one has to reckon with.

All photographs to the text


Translated by author. © Andreas Rauh

211
AuthoRs

213
Stig L. Andersson graduated from the Royal Danish Acad-
emy of Fine Arts School of Architecture in 1986 after previous
studies in nuclear physics, Japanese culture and chemistry.
Research scholarship at Tokyo Institute of Technology from
1986 to 1989. Since 1994 he has served as creative director
of the architectural firm SLA A/S, which he co-founded. He
teaches as a professor for aesthetic design at the University of
Copenhagen and as a guest professor at several universities
and schools of architecture in Europe, Asia and the U.S. In 2014
Andersson served as curator for the exhibition Empowerment
of Aesthetics in the Danish pavilion at the 14th International
Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale. Selected proj-
ects: Bjørvika Harbour in Oslo since 2005, Yellow Mud Garden in
Xian, China, in 2010; International Criminal Court in The Hague
2011-2015. Selected awards: 2002 Topos European Landscape
Award, 2011 RIBA Award, 2014 C. F. Hansen Medal Denmark.

A.W. Faust trained as a gardener before studying philosophy


at LMU Munich from 1988 to 1989 and landscape preserva-
tion at the TFH Berlin from 1989 to 1994. Positions in various
planning offices, project and design management until 2004.
Member of the Chamber of Architects Berlin (AK-Berlin) since
1998. Founded sinai.exteriors in 2001. Continued partner-
ship with long-term associates Bernhard Schwarz and Klaus
Schroll as sinai. Faust.Schroll.Schwarz. GmbH from 2006 and
sinai Gesellschaft von Landschaftsarchitekten mbH from
2012. Selected projects: 2014 KZ Gedenkstätte (memorial)
Flossenbürg, 2014 Hafenpark in Frankfurt am Main, 2015
Landesgartenschau (state horticultural show) Schmalkalden.
2010 Special Award (Sonderpreis) of the Deutscher Städte-
baupreis (German Urban Development Award) for Berlin
Wall Memorial. Selected publications: Schröder, Thies/sinai:
Difficult Places. Landscapes of Remembrance by Sinai, Berlin 2013.

Kathryn Gustafson studied art at the University of Washing-


ton and fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology
in New York. She worked as a fashion designer in Paris and
then studied landscape architecture at the École Nationale
Supérieure du Paysage in Versailles, graduating in 1979. She
founded Gustafson Porter in London in 1997 and Gustafson
Guthrie Nichol in Washington in 1999. She is an Honorary
Fellow at the Royal Institute of British Architecture, medal-
list of the French Academy of Architecture and recipient of

215
London’s Jane Drew Prize. Additional awards and honours:
2012 Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize for Architecture, 2014
Obayashi Prize. Selected projects: 2004 Diana Princess of
Wales Memorial in London, 2004 Lurie Garden in the Mil-
lennium Park in Chicago, 2014 CityCenterDC park in Wash-
ington, D.C. Selected publications: “Gustafson Porter and
Gustafson Guthrie Nichol: Towards Paradise”. In: Landscape
Architecture, 6, 2008.

Prof. Dr Michael Hauskeller studied philosophy, German


Literature and English/American literature in Bonn and Dub-
lin. He earned his PhD in Darmstadt in 1994 and qualified for
a teaching career in higher education (Habilitation) in 2001.
Since 2003 he has been an Associate Professor of Philoso-
phy at the University of Exeter in the UK, where he teaches
and researches in several areas, including transhumanism,
metaethics, the philosophy of art and beauty, scepticism,
common sense and the interrelation between aesthetics and
morality. In 1997 he was awarded the Schopenhauer Prize
from the Arthur Hübscher Foundation. Numerous publica-
tions in various areas of philosophy, including Hauskeller,
Michael / Rehmann-Sutter, Christoph/Schiemann, Gregor
(eds.): Naturerkenntnis und Natursein, Frankfurt am Main
1998. Selected monographs: Better Humans? Understanding
the Enhancement Project, Durham 2013; Was ist Kunst, Munich
2013; Biotechnology and the Integrity of Life, Ashgate 2007;
Atmosphären erleben, Berlin 1994.

Dr. Burkhard Meyer-Sickendiek, literary scholar, studied


German language and literature, history and philosophy at
Bielefeld University. PhD from the University of Tübingen in
1999, Bavarian Postdoctoral Scholarship (Bayerischer Habili-
tationsförderpreis) 2003-2006, qualification for a teaching
career in higher education (Habilitation) from LMU Munich
2008. Position at the Freie Universität Berlin since 2008,
starting as a guest professor for the Clusters of Excellence
“Languages of Emotion” in 2008, Heisenberg fellowship
from the DFG until 2015. Selected research areas: perception
experiments in modern and postmodern poetry; history of
endearment in the 17th and 18th centuries. Selected mono-
graphs: Lyrisches Gespür. Vom geheimen Sensorium moderner
Poesie, Paderborn 2011; Tiefe. Über die Faszination des Grübelns,
Paderborn 2010.

216
Dr. Andreas Rauh studied art education, education science
and philosophy, earning his PhD from the Graduate School of
the Humanities (GSH) at the University of Würzburg. Since
2004 he has been researching the phenomenon of atmo-
sphere in reception and production. He has been a member
of Réseau International Ambiance(s) since 2008. He serves
as managing director of the Human Dynamics Centre (HDC)
and as a research associate for the ZiLS – Service Centre for
Innovation in Teaching and Learning, University of Würzburg.
Selected publications: “Atmosphären. Wahrnehmungen im
Umfeld der Kunst”. In: Goetz, Rainer / Graupner, Stefan (eds.):
Atmosphäre(n) II, Munich 2012. Die besondere Atmosphäre.
Ästhetische Feldforschungen, Bielefeld 2012.

Prof. Dr. Rainer Schönhammer studied psychology, philoso-


phy and education science. Diplom in psychology from LMU
Munich 1982. PhD 1984, qualification for a teaching career
in higher education (Habilitation) for the field of psychology
1990. Research associate at the “chair” unit (Lehrstuhl) for
developmental psychology at LMU Munich until 1994, interim
professorship at the Universität Regensburg 1992-1993. Pro-
fessor for psychology of design at the Burg Giebichenstein
University of Art and Design in Halle since 1994. Research and
numerous publications on media, material culture, mobility
and means of transport, (sub)cultures and communication,
perception, states of consciousness and aesthetic experience.
Selected monographs: Einführung in die Wahrnehmungspsy-
chologie. Sinne, Körper, Bewegung, Vienna 2013; Fliegen, Fallen,
Flüchten. Psychologie intensiver Träume, Tübingen 2004; In
Bewegung. Zur Psychologie der Fortbewegung, Munich 1991.

Dr. Sabine Schouten studied dramatic art and modern Ger-


man literature in Erlangen and Berlin. Local and youth editor
at the Berliner Zeitung (German daily newspaper) from 1999
to 2002. Staff member of the theatre project “Ästhetik des
Performativen” in the special research area “Kulturen des
Performativen” at the Freie Universität Berlin until 2006.
PhD in 2006 from the Freie Universität Berlin, doctoral the-
sis “Sinnliches Spüren. Wahrnehmung und Erzeugung von
Atmosphären im Theater”. In 2007 Sabine Schouten returned
to the field of journalism as a staff member of the agency
Raufeld Medien in Berlin. In addition, she works as a freelance
writer, e.g. for the magazine Theater der Zeit. Co-editor of:

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Aus dem Takt. Rhythmus in Kunst, Kultur und Natur, Bielefeld
2005; Wege der Wahrnehmung. Authentizität, Reflexivität und
Aufmerksamkeit im zeitgenössischen Theater, Berlin 2006.

Prof. Jürgen Weidinger has held a full professorship for


Landscape Architecture at the Technische Universität Berlin
since 2009. In 1995 he founded the landscape architecture
firm WEIDINGER LANDSCHAFTSARCHITEKTEN in Berlin. He
has lectured in England, France, Italy, Ireland and China.
His research interests include the design of atmospheres
and the creation of knowledge through design. Selected
publications: “Design and criticism of atmospheres in land-
scape architecture”. In: Sörensen, Christiane / Liedtke, Karo-
line (eds.): Specifics. Discussing Landscape Architecture, Berlin
2014; “Atmospheric and emotional aspects of public space
in today’s cities”. In: Przestrzen, Czas, Forma. Catalogue for
the exhibition of the same name at the Consulate General of
Germany in Krakow 2013; “Local and new”. In: Serreli, Silvia
(ed.): City Project and Public Space, New York 2013. Selected
projects: park on the cover over the BAB 7 federal motorway
in Hamburg since 2011, Federal Baukultur Foundation in Pots-
dam 2012, Kätcheslachpark in Frankfurt am Main since 2009.

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other volumes in this series:
Entwurfsbasiert Forschen (Design-Based Research), 2013
Designing Knowledge, 2015

a note from the editor:


Illustrations were printed with kind permission. The editors
have tried to identify and name all sources and copyright
holders. Despite careful investigation, it is possible that some
copyright holders may not have been identified. However,
copyrights have been respected. Errors or ommissions will
be corrected in a future edition.

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